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ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court on Wednesday directed the authorities concerned to complete the Orange Line Metro (OLM) train project at the earliest and clear all outstanding dues of contractors.

The apex court also directed National Accoun­tability Bureau (NAB) to complete ongoing inquiry into alleged irregularities in re-awarding one of the contracts for the OLM project.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar reprimanded two construction firms, Habib Construction and Zahir Khan and Brothers, for “delaying” the OLM project that caused inconvenience to the public. The CJP on a Punjab government’s request also ordered revising the PC-I (project concept) of the OLM and its cost as demanded by the provincial government.

According to the counsel for one of the construction firms, Shahid Hamid, the provincial government assu­red the apex court that it would pay all the dues of the contractors if the cost of the project was revised from Rs165 billion to Rs170 billion.

Earlier, the OLM project had run into snags due to a controversy of heritage sites situated close to project’s alignment and then re-awarding a contract for a part of the project on an unjust basis.

Work on 27-km Orange Line Metro train project was originally divided into two sets — one was being executed by a firm Habib Construction and the other by Maqbool and Colson Joint Venture. While Habib Construction had completed 56 per cent of the work and the Maqbool and Colson Joint Venture had done 54 per cent work, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) awarded a contract for the remaining work to another joint venture, namely Zahid Khan & Brothers and Reliable.

Maqbool and Colson Joint Venture had been laying railway line from Chauburji to Ali Town at an estimated cost of Rs26 billion.

While it had completed around Rs18 billion work, the LDA awarded Rs11.39 billion contract for the remaining portion to Zahid Khan & Brothers and Reliable.

The court was informed that the total cost of the OLM project was Rs165 billion — Rs150bn Chinese loan and Rs15bn local fund — but the local component escalated due to unplanned land acquisition and the award of the Rs11.39bn contract. The local component of the total cost was increased from Rs15 billion to Rs28 billion, the court was told.

“I know very well about both Habib Construction and Zahir Khan and Brothers. If you do not want to work anymore I can call NAB and ask the bureau to make reference against those who had committed corruption in the project,” the CJP remarked.

The counsel for Zahir Khan and Brothers, Naeem Bukhari, said his client’s outstanding payment of Rs1.6 billion for work done and Rs7.5 billion as claims was not being given by the provincial government.

On this, the CJP reminded Mr Bukhari that at a previous hearing he had assured the apex court that his client could work even without payment because of “his love for Lahore” and yet he asked for the payments.

However, the CJP issued an order to the Punjab government to ensure payment of all outstanding dues to all contractors involved in the project. He directed the Punjab Mass Transport Authority director general Sibtain Shah to look into the matter and pay the contractors.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2018