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LAHORE, Dec 14: The Punjab Higher Education Department on Friday told the Lahore High Court that the government distributed laptops to students on merit under a development scheme titled “Advancement of information technology through provision of laptops to students”.

This was stated in a written reply submitted by the Higher Education Department special secretary to the court in response to a petition seeking a judicial probe into the alleged corruption in the laptops scheme launched by the Punjab government.

The reply said laptops had been purchased through an advertisement in newspapers and the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder/firm. It said the Transparency International in its report expressed satisfaction with the procurement process of 110,000 laptops. It said that laptops were distributed on merit to students who met the eligibility criteria. No violation of fundamental rights was committed during the procurement of laptops, the department said in the reply and asked the court to dismiss the petition.

Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan adjourned the hearing of the petition till Dec 21 and directed the LHC office to ensure service of notice to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Nawaz Sharif. The court had issued notice to Sharif on previous hearing, however, it was stated on Friday that the notice had yet to be served.

A member of the People’s Lawyers Forum, Mian Shahid Abbas, had filed the petition and contended that as per a report of the Transparency International the laptops scheme launched by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would cause a loss of Rs1.70 billion to the national exchequer.

He said the government had bought these laptops at higher rates -- a Rs25,000 laptop was bought for Rs35,000. He said the laptops scheme was being used by the PML-N for political gains. The lawyer said that pictures of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif were being used in newspaper advertisements funded by the Punjab government.

The petitioner prayed to the court to order judicial inquiry into the matter to establish the truth.