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ISLAMABAD: The government is planning to establish evening courts to address the issue of pendency of cases, ensure speedy trials and alleviate the workload of courts.

The National Assembly was told on Thursday that the law ministry had drafted a bill to establish evening courts. These courts would be set up initially in the federal capital and later provincial governments would be asked to follow suit. The government would approach the federal cabinet for approval before initiating the process of establishing these courts, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab told the lawmakers.

Earlier, Nighat Parveen Mir had put forward a question in writing, asking whether the government was considering any proposals to keep the courts open round-the-clock.

Provincial governments expected to follow suit later

In his written reply, Law Minister Zahid Hamid said there were no proposals to keep the courts open round-the-clock; however, a draft bill titled “Evening Courts Bill-2017” was being considered for the Islamabad Cap­ital Territory to reduce the pendency of cases in courts.

“As there is a huge pendency of cases against the present strength of judges, the backlog is increasing steadily day by day,” he said, adding that “the proposed bill seeks to set up evening courts in Islamabad for speedy disposal of cases and clearance of backlog”.

The minister for parliamentary affairs informed the house that the timings of the evening courts were yet to be determined.

Following the revival of military courts last month, the government has formed a parliamentary committee to propose judicial reforms in order to strengthen the civil justice system.

TAPI project

The issue of the Turkme­ni­stan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project was also discussed in detail after Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the $25 billion project would start supplying gas to Pakistan by 2020-21.

The lower house was told that many areas of Sindh had been facing gas loadshedding for several months. However, the minister claimed that there was no official policy of gas loadshedding in his ministry.

Some members from Sindh pointed out the poor condition of Karachi-Hyderabad Highway and the Hyderabad-Multan Highway.

Arif Alvi of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Yousuf Talpur of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said the people had been facing traffic jams of up to 11 hours as no alternative route had been provided during the construction of the Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway.

Sheikh Aftab said the meeting of NA’s standing committee on communication would be held in Karachi next week where the issue could be discussed.

Blocked CNICs

Aftab Sherpao and Ghulam Ahmed Bilour drew the parliament’s attention to the fact that the Compu­terised National Identity Cards (CNICs) of more than 350,000 Pakhtuns had been blocked for the last 13 years.

“We want to know when these CNICs will be unblocked. Despite the government’s assurance, nothing is being done to address the problem. Are these Pakhtuns and not Pakis­tanis,” Mr Sherpao asked.

At this, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi said a recently-formed parliamentary committee would meet next week to formally announce that those CNICs were being unblocked.

Later, the PPP staged a walk out from the house for the 10th consecutive day to protest the detention of three close aides of PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah accused the government of weakening the parliament. “We are asking the same questions: where are these three people and why were they picked up? The government seems helpless in sharing these details on the floor of the house,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2017

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