LHC to constitute inquiry commission over petrol crisis

Updated 10 Jul 2020

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LHC chief justice observed that apparently the oil ‘mafia’ created the shortage of petrol for monetary gains. — PPI/File
LHC chief justice observed that apparently the oil ‘mafia’ created the shortage of petrol for monetary gains. — PPI/File

LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Thursday decided to constitute a high-level commission to investigate petrol shortage that hit the country last month following the announcement of a sharp decrease in prices.

Principal Secretary to the prime minister Azam Khan, Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) chairman Uzma Adil and other federal and provincial officials were present in the court when the chief justice resumed hearing of the case.

At the outset, Chief Justice Qasim Khan asked AGP Khan whether he had discussed the suggestion of a commission on the matter with the National Assembly’s speaker as desired by the court during the last hearing.

The attorney general said he personally met the NA speaker and conveyed to him the court’s suggestion. He said the speaker resolved to present the suggestion before the prime minister and the leader of opposition.

Court will itself name members if official nominees are not suitable

The chief justice reminded the attorney general that the court had asked him to come up with a clear policy of the government.

The chief justice also called the prime minister’s principal secretary to the rostrum and observed that the reply submitted by him was nothing more than gimmickry of words.

“The principal secretary to the PM is a powerful man as he runs both the government and the establishment. And he does not appear before the court even after repeated directions,” the chief justice said in his remarks.

The chief justice observed that apparently the oil ‘mafia’ created the shortage of petrol for monetary gains and the government’s decision to increase petrol prices before the scheduled time appeared to have been made to benefit the oil marketing companies.

“It was sheer bad governance,’’ he lamented, adding that the crisis could not be controlled unless the people responsible for it were taken to task.

AGP Khan suggested to the court to constitute a commission to conduct an investigation into the issue. The chief justice admitted the AGP’s idea and asked him to present names for it.

Chief Justice Khan observed that the court would nominate members for the commission if the nominees of the attorney general were not found to be suitable.

“I need strong people on the commission.”

The chief justice warned the government officials of strict action if anyone found involved in concealing or tampering with the official record.

He further observed, “Prima facie all the authorities concerned are suspects in the petrol crisis.” He also warned the Ogra chairperson not to try to protect the real culprits.

The chief justice adjourned hearing till July 16 and directed the attorney general to present names for members of the commission. He also directed Advocate Awais Khalid, amicus curiae, to assist the court on terms of references of the commission.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020