LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday ordered a stay on a section of the Orange Line Metro Train Project close to Old Anarkali after hearing a petition filed by the residents of Kapoorthala House and others situated in the locality.

Amjad Hasan Bhatti, a resident of the pre-partition Kapoorthala House, and others had filed the petition Thursday challenging the government's acquisition of their properties for the project through Advocate Azhar Siddique.

The petition asked the court to stop acquisition of their properties, which they said was unlawful and in violation of fundamental rights protected in the Constitution.

Justice Shahid Karim during today's hearing of the petition ordered a stay on the section of the project passing close to the affected residential area. A larger bench will be formed to hear the case.

Earlier, the petitioners had said the government, in order to make the project successful, had been acquiring land from citizens by 'hook or by crook.'

They said the government, just for the sake of “cheap publicity,” started a “white elephant” project at the cost of the life and property of the vulnerable and marginalised people of Lahore.

They said a major portion of the old heritage of the city, including General Post Office (GPO) and some part of Shalamar Gardens and Chauburji were being damaged to accommodate the project. They said requirements for land acquisition were not fulfilled while acquiring the citizens’ property.

The petitioners prayed to the court to strike down sections 4, 5, 5-A, 17 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 for being in violation of many provisions of the Constitution.

They prayed to the court that all process of acquisition, transfer of any fund or any action for establishment of the project be suspended and the respondents be restrained from taking any further steps in pursuance of land acquisition.

The heavily-criticised Orange Line Metro route has been slammed by civil society activists, individuals and rights groups as it, according to them, directly flouts Section 22 of the Antiquities Act 1975 and Punjab Special Premises Preservation Ordinance 1985 by passing along historical and internationally recognised heritage sites ─ Chauburji, General Post Office (GPO) and the Shalamar Gardens.

They have urged the government to either change the route or construct stretches at a distance of 200-feet from these monuments or use tunnel technology to keep the entire 27.1km track underground.

United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) sought details from the Punjab government on the project, particularly the elevated stretch passing along Shalamar Gardens which is on the list of world heritage sites along with the Lahore Fort.

A Unesco team had also earlier visited the Shalamar Gardens and observed the ongoing civil works being carried out in the area.

Following the action, the Punjab government expressed willingness to take Unesco and civil society on board regarding the project. "We have no objection if Unesco wants the project details and desires to assist us through its experts in resolving the issue of the elevated train track route along the Shalamar Gardens. We have also asked the government to respond to Unesco’s letter, invite its experts as well as civil society activists in this regard," LDA Chief Engineer Israr Saeed had said last week.

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