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PM Imran firmly behind Ravi riverfront project as Punjab challenges LHC verdict

28 Jan, 2022
Prime Minister Imran Khan while talking to media during his visit to Rakh Jhok forest had announced that the provincial government would challenge the verdict of the LHC in the Supreme Court. APP
Prime Minister Imran Khan while talking to media during his visit to Rakh Jhok forest had announced that the provincial government would challenge the verdict of the LHC in the Supreme Court. APP
Last year in September, Prime Minister Imran Khan had laid the foundation stone of the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development project. APP
Last year in September, Prime Minister Imran Khan had laid the foundation stone of the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development project. APP

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Friday said the Punjab government has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Lahore High Court verdict — wherein it had scrapped the multi-billion rupee Ravi Riverfront Urban Develop­ment Project.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan while talking to the media during his visit to Rakh Jhok forest in Sheikhapura, had announced that the provincial government would challenge the verdict of the LHC in the Supreme Court.

The prime minister said this time the government would present the case in a better manner to apprise the honourable court about the significance of the project in view of urban development and civic facilities.

Last year in September, Prime Minister Imran Khan had laid the foundation stone of the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development project. The construction of a 46-kilometer long lake from Ravi Siphon to Hudiara, laying of complex network of roads and construction of 12 new high-tech cities is the hallmark of this project.

In the verdict announced by the LHC on January 26, the high court directed the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda) to repay the loan it took from the Punjab government for the project within two months.

While talking to journalists on Friday, the premier said: "A misconception is prevailing about the Ravi project that it is a housing society. This is not the case. The grand project is aimed at correcting the faults in the wake of unplanned construction of the city.

“We need to set up new cities keeping in mind the growing population of the country. Otherwise we will be unable to provide civic facilities to people,” he said, adding residents of Lahore in near future could face problems similar to Karachiites as result of unplanned urban development.

The prime minister regretted that the Sindh government did not allow construction at Bundal Island which was also a mega project in line with planned development of cities.

He highlighted salient features of the project which included plantation of two billion trees as part of forestation, construction of barrages to up water table and filtration of sewerage.

The prime minister said the project worth $20 billion would provide employment to locals, encourage foreign investment and help running 40 affiliated industries. He added Rs1.5 billion had already been received in this regard.

Fawad on SBP Bill

In his talk to media, the federal minister also talked about the opposition's failure in the Senate to stop the passage of the controversial State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Amendment Bill 2021. "Despite having majority in the Upper House of the Parliament on paper, the incompetent opposition is unable to stop the passage of a bill," the federal minister said, adding the opposition was thinking of a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly but today's victory of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is the reality as the party had proved its superiority in the Senate as well.

"Neither the opposition has any policy or scheme, nor they have any support on their own for their politics," he said, adding that their latest failure in the Senate has imprinted a stamp of incompetence on the opposition.

"The bill will ensure independence of the SBP as the PTI has freed the banking regulatory authority from all political pressures," Hussain said, adding its board would be a strong one and it would play an important role in the country's economy.

Development projects, policy and law

He also talked about the Ravi project, saying the high court had expressed its concerns over the the scheme where a new city was going to be established.

"The government has a right to establish new cities because it was not employing efforts to acquire a land or make a housing society. This decision has to be taken by the government. Whenever the courts intervened in policy decisions, it had no positive outcome," he said and cited the examples of Reko Diq and Steel Mill. "The country suffered whenever the courts encroached their rights."

He added: "Policy making is the right of executive and the Parliament. The right of executive should remain with it. The same goes with the Parliament and the judiciary."

He said that billions of dollars have been invested in the Ravi riverfront project and expressed the government’s desire to complete the mega project in its stipulated period.

“This is very important that we complete this project and I am hopeful that the courts will be careful about the law on our major policy decisions because they are public-interest matters,” Fawad said, adding that the matters pertaining to public interest should be dealt by parliament and the executive.

Cabinet changes

To a query pertaining to Shahzad Akbar’s resignation, he said the ‘Naya Pakistan’ dream was not based on personalities but on the dreams that were “seen” by the people. “The people have chosen Prime Minister Imran Khan for fulfilment of those dreams.”

The government’s decisions are not based on personalities, he said and again defended the government’s performance despite the Transparency International report. The information minister claimed that for the first time in the country’s history there was a government where no such corruption scandal was reported at the prime minister and the cabinet level.

Fawad said: “Our policies have brought a game change and for the first time Pakistan was standing on its feet.”

To another query related to PML-Q’s open criticism, he said that such a question should be asked to the government ally. “The PML-Q is our integral part and we respect their views. Sometimes petty issues do occur but they will be resolved,” he said and rejected any talks about internal fight.

He also took a jibe at the opposition, saying that they don’t have any direction.

On former PM Nawaz Sharif’s “return”, Fawad said the ousted premier was not returning to the country but hopefully would be brought back here. “I am hopeful that a few PML-N leaders will be successful in removing Nawaz.”