The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday declared the relocation of Ittefaq Sugar Mills, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills and Chaudhry Sugar Mills — all owned by members of the Sharif family — to southern Punjab as illegal, DawnNews reported.

Headed by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, the division bench was hearing intra-court appeals of the three sugar mills challenging a single bench order which, in October 2016, had stopped shifting of all mills to cotton-growing areas of south Punjab. The court ordered that the mills be moved back within three months, DawnNews reported.

Last year, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Jehangir Tareen, the petitioner of the case, had challenged the relocation of the mills "despite the 2016 ban".

PML-N lawyer Advocate Salman Akram Raja had earlier claimed that the single bench was misled on the issue as a 2006 notification of industries department, relied upon by the petitioners before the single bench, did not put any bar on relocating of existing sugar mills but only setting up new ones.

Tareen's lawyer, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, argued that the relocation of old mills in the southern region of Punjab is similar to setting up new mills and is therefore, illegal. He pleaded that new mills in the area will result in water shortage which will affect the production of cotton crops.

Ittefaq Sugar Mills are located in Bahawalpur, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills in Muzaffargarh and Chaudhry Sugar Mills in Rahim Yar Khan.

In March, the LHC had ordered immediate sealing of Haseeb Waqas and Chaudhry Sugar Mills for shifting the mills to new locations in violation of stay orders issued by the court. Ittefaq Sugar Mills was not sealed as its counsel Salman Akram Raja was not present in the court at the time.

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