CJP summons record of Ahad Cheema's arrest, perks

Chief Justice Nisar questions how a resolution could be passed in the Punjab Assembly against Cheema's arrest

Riaz Shakir

LAHORE: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar summoned on Saturday the complete record regarding the arrest and perks and privileges of senior Punjab bureaucrat Ahad Cheema. 

Cheema was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on February 21 in the Ashiana Housing Scheme probe, after which the Punjab bureaucracy went up in arms in solidarity.

Hearing a suo motu notice on various public welfare issues, the chief justice, heading a three-member bench, observed that no bureaucrat shall boycott offices in protest, adding that in return NAB should also not harass anyone. 

However, the chief justice remarked that persons summoned by NAB should appear before the anti-corruption watchdog.  

"Whoever wants to resign should go home," the chief justice remarked in relation to the protesting bureaucrats. 

Moreover, the chief justice questioned how a resolution was passed against Cheema's arrest by the Punjab Assembly, observing that tomorrow a resolution could also be passed against the Supreme Court's summoning of anyone.

The Punjab Assembly, on Feb 28, had passed a resolution against NAB's action against Cheema, terming it a violation of basic human rights. 

During the hearing, the chief justice asked the Punjab chief secretary and Lahore Development Authority (LDA) director general about Cheema's whereabouts and current posting, to which it was stated that Cheema presently heads the Quaid-e-Azam Power Plant. 

Cheema's arrest took place after NAB had detected illegalities and corruption worth billions in a deal between Paragon Housing Society and Punjab Land Development Company to construct the Ashiana Housing Scheme, a low-cost housing project of the Punjab government. 

Cheema was heading the LDA at the time.

Moreover, during today's hearing, the apex court also summoned the record of Paragon City housing society, while hearing the suo motu notice of the LDA City case.

Report sought on hospitals' waste disposal 

While hearing the suo motu case on disposal of medical waste from public hospitals of Lahore, the chief justice summoned a report in 15 days on the outsourcing of waste collection as well as the disposal of medical waste at military-run hospitals.   

Jinnah Hospital, Lahore. Photo: File 

During the hearing, lawyer Ayesha Hamid, who is aiding the court in the case, submitted a report on the matter. She informed that military hospitals of Lahore failed to reply when asked about waste disposal measures. 

The chief justice questioned why the government only becomes active in resolving the issue when the courts intervene. 

When asked, the chief secretary informed the apex court that since 2011, a private company has been outsourced to collect medical waste from the city's public hospitals. 

Bottled water 

Hearing the suo motu notice on sale of substandard bottled water, the Punjab Food Authority informed the apex court that 1,053 companies selling bottled water are registered, of which the product of 340 does not adhere to safety standards.

The chief justice asked if the minerals advertised on the water bottles are actually present, and observed that they cannot let their children consume water infected with hepatitis.

The hearing was then adjourned until March 8. 

'Rs180,000/minute spent on TV ads' 

Chief Justice Nisar directed the Punjab information secretary to immediately submit the complete record of distribution of advertisements to media houses.

Hearing the suo motu notice of the use of public funds on political campaigns, the chief justice was informed that Rs180,000 per minute is the rate at which ads are aired on TV.

The chief justice questioned the criteria of ads distribution and also asked who gives these orders. 

Later, as the information secretary reappeared in court, the bench was informed that Rs5.5 million was spent on advertisements on 12 TV channels in one day. On the court's insistence, the official disclosed further that the ads carried the picture of the Punjab chief minister. 

The chief justice then ordered an explanation on why the chief minister's picture was published by using public funds, observing that this amounts to pre-poll rigging in light of the upcoming general elections. 

Hearing a separate case on Feb 28 in Islamabad, Chief Justice Nisar had taken suo motu notice of the ongoing publicity campaigns, at the taxpayer's expense, by the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.