KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday said that it would indict Irrigation Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal, chief secretary and irrigation secretary on March 8 for contempt of court.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro observed that the alleged contemnors had not complied with its order passed about an anti-encroachment operation to retrieve the land of the irrigation department across the province and they apparently opted not to benefit from another opportunity granted on the last hearing.

It directed minister Siyal, Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah and Irrigation Secretary Mohammad Saleem Raza to appear in court on the next hearing for indictment.

Earlier, on a request of the advocate general, the bench had granted one more opportunity to the alleged contemnors to provide their replies to contempt notices and also sought progress reports on each hearing under the signatures of the executants with corroboratory documentation.

The alleged contemnors haven’t complied with court’s order to clear encroachments from irrigation lands

When the bench took up the matter on Monday for hearing, an assistant advocate general (AAG) placed a progress report on record executed by the provincial minister, chief secretary and irrigation secretary.

The bench observed that even though the executants had undertaken to ensure the completion of the first phase of anti-encroachment drive before Feb 28 as denoted in the order issued on Jan 18, it was apparent from the progress report that the same had not been done.

It further noted that no progress report had been submitted with respect to the period between Jan 18 and Feb 1, adding that on the last hearing the advocate general had sought another opportunity to be afforded to the alleged contemnors in this regard.

“However, it appears that the alleged contemnors have opted not to benefit from the opportunity granted thereto. In this regard it is hereby directed that the alleged contemnors be present in court on the next hearing for framing of charge,” the bench ruled in the order.

Last month, the bench had issued contempt notices to the provincial minister for irrigation, chief secretary and irrigation secretary for not filing progress reports regarding removal of encroachments despite an undertaking. Thereafter, it had expressed dissatisfaction over the replies filed by the alleged contemnors and granted them another chance on the request of the provincial law officer.

On Jan 18, the court had ordered that the entire exercise of the removal of encroachments from the lands of the irrigation department be completed by June 30 and the minister and others were directed to submit progress reports.

A petition was filed for removing encroachments from the lands and properties belonging to the irrigation department and was pending before the SHC’s Sukkur bench.

However, on an application moved by the advocate general, the SHC chief justice through an administrative order passed in December transferred the petition to the principal seat at Karachi and a larger bench was constituted to hear it.

Earlier, the SHC bench in Sukkur had issued several directives to deputy commissioners and other officials concerned to remove and demolish all the illegal and unauthorised constructions and encroachments including multi-storied buildings, plazas and commercial shops raised over the irrigation lands of Barrage Township/Colony Sukkur, Larkana and other properties of the irrigation department.

Plea against Palwasha’s nomination dismissed

A division bench of the SHC on Monday dismissed a petition challenging the candidature of Pakistan Peoples Party’s Palwasha Khan who is contesting the Senate election on a women-reserved seat.

The petitioner contended that the deputy information secretary of the PPP had “illegally” transferred her vote from Punjab to Sindh and also concealed details of her assets.

After hearing arguments of the lawyers for petitioner, respondent and the Election Commission of Pakistan, the bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar turned down the petition.

Meanwhile, the same bench on Monday adjourned the hearing of another petition filed against the acceptance of nomination papers of federal minister Faisal Vawda to contest the upcoming Senate election since nobody turned up on behalf of the petitioner.

Qadir Khan Mandokhel filed a petition against an order of the election tribunal that dismissed his appeal against the Feb 18 order of the returning officer of the ECP to accept nomination papers of the federal minister for the election of the upper house of parliament.

Qaim gets pre-arrest bail

The SHC on Monday granted interim pre-arrest bail to former Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah till April 7.

Mr Shah, through his counsel, moved the SHC stating that the National Accountability Bureau had issued him a call-up notice about alleged illegal appointments during his tenure and pleaded for bail.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Kalhoro granted him interim bail against a surety bond of Rs100,000 till the next hearing.

The former CM has already been on pre-arrest bail in some other inquiries initiated by NAB about alleged illegal land allotment.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2021

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