LAHORE: The Lahore High Court chief justice on Tuesday allowed another non-government organisation (NGO) to function, restraining the authorities concerned from harassing the organisation and its staff.

Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah passed this interim order on a petition filed by WISE Executive Director Bushra Khaliq challenging a circular issued by the Punjab Industries, Commerce and Investment Department in the light of recommendations of the home department.

Assisted by her counsel, Bushra told the court that the authorities asked her organisation to stop working alleging that they were involved in objectionable and anti-state activities. She said the allegations made in the impugned circular were misleading and false.

After hearing initial contention of the petitioner, the chief justice stayed the impugned orders and allowed the organisation to carry on its functioning. Restraining the respondent authorities from taking coercive measures against the petitioner and her organisation, the chief justice summoned the responsible officials from the Ministry of Interior and home department on Jan 27.

In the petition, Bushra contended that her NGO had in no way violated any of the reasonable restrictions placed under the law and the Constitution. She said WISE was a peaceful organisation and it had utmost respect and regard for the laws of the country.

She stated that the organisation was recently engaged in the Harassment Awareness Volunteer Programme in coordination with office of the Punjab Ombudsperson for effective implementation of Protection against Harassment of women at Workplace Act 2010.

The petitioner pleaded that it was inconceivable that training women to protect themselves against sexual harassment would be in any way detrimental to national security, as alleged by the respondents. She contended that the impugned orders asking the NGO to stop functioning were illegal and unjust as no proper hearing was afforded to the aggrieved party. She prayed to the court to set aside the orders and allow the petitioner organisation to continue its functioning throughout the country.

On Monday, the chief justice had allowed South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK) to continue working. The government had also accused SAP-PK of working against national security, National Action Plan and Operation Zarb-i-Azb, especially in south Punjab.

Published in Dawn January 25th, 2017