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LAHORE: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has ordered daily hearing of a complaint in the 2014 Model Town case while taking notice of delayed proceedings on a day when in another case related to the railways ministry he told Federal Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique that the Supreme Court judges were not prejudiced against anyone including his ‘friends’.

CJP Nisar ordered the presiding officer of an antiterrorism court, Ijaz Awan, to hold hearing of a private complaint moved by Idara Minhajul Quran, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), regarding the 2014 Model Town incident every day of the week except Sundays.

He directed the relevant authorities to transfer all other cases pending before the judge to some other court or to establish a new court for their disposal.

Punjab Advocate General Shakilur Rehman Khan, who was directed to submit the report of a judicial inquiry into the incident conducted by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, complied with the order after the proceedings and filed the report.

Earlier, Punjab Prosecu­tor General Ehtesham Qadir Shah had informed a two-judge bench of the apex court about the current status of proceedings related to the Model Town killings in the trial court and the Lahore High Court (LHC).

At least 14 people were killed and over 100 were injured during an operation by law enforcement agencies outside the Model Town residence of PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri on June 17, 2014.

Asks LHC to decide all appeals within 15 days; CJP tells Saad Rafique judges are not prejudiced against his ‘friends’

The counsel for the PAT Rai Bashir informed the court that no progress had been made in the proceedings for quite some time.

The prosecutor general argued that the counsel for the applicant had often been found absent at the hearings of the appeals pending before the LHC. At this, the chief justice directed the LHC to take, at the most, 15 days to decide all pending appeals regarding the proceedings of the trial court in the Model Town incident. With these directions, the chief justice disposed of the suo motu case.

He had taken the suo motu notice after the families of several victims of the incident called on him last week at the Lahore registry. The families also held a demonstration outside the court to get the attention of the chief justice.

The trial court recently indicted 116 police officials in a private complaint of the PAT. The court had, in 2017, partially admitted the complaint against 125 officials of police and district government. But it rejected the plea to the extent of involvement of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, MNA Hamza Shahbaz, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, former information minister Pervaiz Rashid, State Minister Abid Sher Ali, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, then personal secretary to chief minister Syed Tauqir Shah, home minister Azam Suleman, and then Lahore Commissioner Rashid Mahmood Langrial.

The provincial government had kept the inquiry report by Justice Najafi secret for three years till a full bench of the LHC last year ordered the report to be made public. However, the bench had ruled that disclosure of the inquiry report would not impact the outcome of ongoing trial proceedings relating to the Model Town incident.

Judges not prejudiced against anyone: CJP

During the hearing of a suo motu case against annual losses of the railways department, CJP Nisar told Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique that the judges of the Supreme Court were not prejudiced against anyone, but were only establishing the rule of law.

“We have no prejudice as your friends have been saying nowadays. We are only establishing the rule of law, which is causing some problems for them,” he added.

“I have no problem,” Mr Rafique quickly responded and invited the chief justice to visit the railways headquarters for a brief presentation on the steps taken during his stint as minister.

The chief justice observed that he only wanted to correct wrongdoings in the country, and added that no one could dampen his determination. At one point, the chief justice admonished the railways minister for adopting a casual posture behind the rostrum. He referred to an objectionable speech the minister is accused of delivering and directed the court’s staff to show the speech on an electronic projector. The court then reminded him to never think of disrespecting state institutions.

When the minister said he was even jailed during the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the independent judiciary, the chief justice warned him, “Be careful, you can go to jail again.”

Independent forensic audit of railways

CJP Nisar observed that the court would go for an independent forensic audit of the railways and said it would be decided next week which company would be engaged to conduct this exercise.

Earlier, Mr Rafique told the court that the railways department’s annual earning had been increased from Rs18 billion some five years ago to Rs50 billion though the losses also rose slightly from Rs30bn to around Rs35bn annually. “I went against the policy of my own party which wanted to privatise the department,” said Mr Rafique with pride. At least 10 more years would be required to eliminate all the losses, he added.

When in the presence of his brother and Punjab Health Secretary Khawaja Salman Rafique, the railways minister took pride in being the son of the late eminent activist of the Pakistan movement, the chief justice said: “The sons of the late Khawaja Rafique are not like their father.”

Earlier, Railways Secretary Parveen Agha shared statistics of the annual revenue and losses from 2012 to 2018. She said railways had been paying Rs30.2bn annually to its retired employees as pension which was the main reason behind the losses.

Ms Agha said the railways had contested observations made in the report of an auditor general and got the losses of around Rs12bn settled before the Public Accounts Committee.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked if they had gone through India’s model for the railways.

The chief justice observed that the railways should have generated enough revenue to pay pension. “For how long will you run the railways with bailout packages from the government?” he asked the officer.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2018