Monday, September 18, 2023
LAHORE: Neither the caretaker government in Punjab nor the election body is willing to provide any clarity on the projects the former is authorising in the province, despite it being contrary to its role under the law.
On August 17, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) wrote to the chief secretary of Punjab advising it to avoid taking measures which were illegal.
“As you are aware that under Section 230(2)(a) of the Election Act 2017 and subsequent guidelines…issued by the Elected Commission,” the special secretary of the ECP noted in the letter, which was also posted by the commission on the microblogging website, X.
“The caretaker government cannot take major policy decisions except on urgent matters to run the affairs of the government on a day-to-day basis.”
The ECP’s letter then details some of these unlawful decisions, being taken unfettered in the province.
It has been observed, writes the ECP, that the interim Punjab government was green-lighting “major steps to change land use” in various districts.
“The deputy commissioners are issuing NOCs for housing societies, green areas are being compromised and by doing so agricultural land is being sacrificed,” the letter cautions, “This will lead to mushroom and haphazard growth of residential areas.”
Not only that, the ECP further adds that the element of corruption cannot be ruled out in certain areas.
The ECP then reminds the caretaker Punjab government that such policy decisions were contrary to its mandate and can only be “formulated by an elected government”.
It then instructs the Punjab government to stop the issuance of new NOCs and to issue directions to its deputy commissioners immediately.
Geo Fact Check reached out to Zafar Iqbal Hussain, the special secretary of the ECP, who wrote the letter, for information on what these policy decisions were, specifically, and which housing societies were being issued unlawful NOCs.
No response was forthcoming from Hussain, even after a week of repeated requests for comments.
Geo Fact Check further emailed the ECP on September 9. It has not received a response to date.
Geo Fact Check then contacted the Punjab government, requesting the caretaker information minister Punjab for a comment. The minister told Geo Fact Check to contact Ali Nawaz Malik, the secretary of information Punjab, for a list of the projects which the ECP has termed illegal and unconstitutional.
Malik replied that no NOC has been issued so far by the Punjab government for a housing society in the province. When Geo Fact Check asked him to explain why the ECP showed concern, Malik did not reply.
Even a month after the letter was issued, it is unclear what these projects are, which are compromising Punjab’s green areas and agricultural land and if they have been halted after the ECP took notice.
With additional reporting by Muhammad Binyameen Iqbal.
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