ISLAMABAD: The Supr­eme Court has summoned Hussain Asghar, who heads Punjab’s Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE), to defend himself in a case filed by the mayor of Lahore and the Lahore Develo­pment Authority’s (LDA) director general.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, on Monday took up a petition moved by retired Colonel Mubashar Javed, the Mayor of the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation (MCL), through his counsel Mubeenuddin Qazi, seeking a restraining order against the Punjab government. The petitioner alleged that the provincial government was contemplating dissolving local bodies before completion of their five-year term.

Col Javed and Amina Imran, the LDA Director General, stated before the Supreme Court that the ACE was harassing them as well as their staff. Col Javed even claimed that he foresaw his arrest by the Anti-Corruption Department any time, adding that 28 wedding halls in Lahore had been closed down by the department without prior information to the MCL.

Mubashar Javed, who assumed the mayorship of Lahore on Jan 1, 2017, after getting elected unopposed on a PML-N ticket, alleged in his petition that the Local Government and Community Development Department’s (LG&CDD) secretary had paralysed the “democratic working” of MCL and other local bodies by issuing verbal instructions to senior officers.

Instead of empowering local governments in the province under Article 140A of the Constitution, the Punjab government has started usurping and encroa­­ching upon their functions, power and authority, the petitioner said.

The petition argued that the Punjab government was trying to abridge, dilute and impede powers of local bodies in violation of Article 140 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court observed that it would take a decision only after hearing Attorney General Anwar Mansoor, but asked Anti- Corruption Depar­tment DG Hussain Asghar to appear before it next week to answer the allegations.

Qasim Ali Chowhan, Additional Advocate General (AAG) for Punjab, assured the top court that the provincial government had already prepared recommendations for grant of authority to local government institutions.

The Punjab government filed a rejoinder in response to the petition. It stated that the provincial government did not interfere in the day-to-day running of local governments.

The reply explained that the present government intended to remove all impediments in the way of devolution of political, administrative and financial powers to local bodies.

The reply said the LG&CDD secretary was exercising powers and authority as vested in him under the law, pointing out that the petitioner did not mention any instance in which the official exercised his powers over and above the law and principles settled by superior courts.

The rejoinder stated that the petitioner had merely alleged the frequent transfer and postings of officers of the local government, but did not give details.

The rejoinder highlighted that the petitioner had failed to point out proposals for schemes which were returned with objections and had not specified the illegalities. The provincial government had forwarded its objections in accordance with the law while exercising its executive authority, the Punjab government added.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2019