ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday referred the Bhara Kahu bypass project case to the federal cabinet for making a decision on its fate.

IHC Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb observed that the federal cabinet may consider the recommendations of the inter-ministerial committee and if the project was found in violation of the master plan, it may be amended accordingly.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had formed a cabinet committee for finalising recommendations on the project.

The court was told that Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) had approved the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report under section 12 of the Pakistan Environment Protection Act 1997 subject to conditions under Regulations 13(1) of the Regulations 2000. However, the petitioners pointed out that the EIA report was not prepared in accordance with law.

Justice Aurangzeb remarked that the report could be challenged at an appropriate forum.

Additional Attorney General Barrister Munawar Iqbal Duggal told the court that the cabinet’s committee had noted the apprehensions of the petitioners and submitted its report to the federal cabinet. He requested the court for a week-long adjournment to enable the federal cabinet to take a decision.

Petitioners’ counsel Kashif Ali Malik argued that the federal cabinet might be asked to explore alternative options to execute the project and instead of the current layout the project might be amended to protect the land of Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU).

Noman Paracha, counsel for the QAU, told the court that the syndicate had not yet given formal approval for the use of the university’s premises for the bypass.

Further hearing of the case was adjourned till Dec 2.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sept 30 had laid the foundation of the Bhara Kahu bypass and directed the National Logistics Cell (NLC) to complete the project in three months.

The five-km long road, including a one-km flyover, will start from Murree Road near QAU stop and culminate on Murree Road near the Jugi bus stop adjacent to Punjab Cash and Carry from where a flyover will begin which will end outside Bhara Kahu bazaar towards Murree.

On Nov 18, the Pak-EPA had conducted a public hearing on the environment impact assessment (EIA) report prepared by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on the Bhara Kahu bypass project at Jinnah Convention Centre during which the QAU faculty and students as well as locals of Bhara Kahu and Murree exchanged harsh words disrupting the proceedings several times. Both the sides also raised slogans against each other.

The QAU faculty members, including Pervez Hoodbhoy, opposed the project, stating that the university’s land belonged to the future generation and they would not allow the CDA to execute this project.

In response, CDA’s director Rana Tariq had said the project was launched for the public at large and against the university land falling under the project and that the CDA had issued an offer letter to provide alternative land to the university.

The proceedings ended in a tense environment and a brief scuffle took place between Murree residents and QAU students outside the hall.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2022

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