PESHAWAR: On Wednesday, the Peshawar High Court dismissed two opposition MPAs’ petitions against separate construction schemes in the provincial capital over suspected disparity between members of the ruling and the opposition.
After the completion of arguments on both sides, a bench consisting of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Mohammad Naeem Anwar pronounced a short order in that regard and permitted development schemes in all 14 Peshawar district provincial constituencies.
It also vacated the stay order imposed in Peshawar for all construction schemes. Since Apr 2020, the Stay Order has suspended all construction activity in the district.
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MPA Khushdil Khan filed two of the petitions and Salahuddin Khan filed one.
PHC also vacates last year’s stay order against Peshawar projects
The MPAs, member of the Awami National Party, accused the government of not allowing them enough representation in development projects.
For the provincial government, advocate General Shumail Ahmad Butt appeared, while advocate Khushdil Khan appeared in person.
The government should not differentiate between separate constituencies and could allocate development funds for all constituencies fairly, Mr. Khushdil said.
He said that various meetings of the District Development Committee (DDC) chaired by the Deputy Commissioner of Peshawar had approved such development schemes as defined in their respective constituencies by representatives of the ruling PTI.
The legislator said tenders were also issued in numerous newspapers for these schemes.
He claimed that he had contested the tender notices at issue and that the court ordered the suspension of the proceedings on the notices on Apr 7, 2020.
When the earlier petition was still pending, Mr. Khushdil pointed out that on July 13, 2020, another DDC meeting chaired by the Deputy Commissioner was held, in which all schemes questioned in the court were cancelled.
He added that he later heard from e-tender notices released in a newspaper on Sept. 11, 2020, from implementing authorities, including the additional deputy commissioner (finance and planning) and two Peshawar Town II and IV municipal officers or administrators, concerning the schemes questioned in the previous petition.
The MPA claimed that the district development advisory committee (DDAC) of which the appropriate lawmakers were members and not the DDC as those belonging to the ‘Peshawar Uplift Project’ coming under the provincial ADP was to sanction the development fund and schemes.
After the Supreme Court judgement in the Raja Pervez Ashraf case, Attorney General Shumail Butt argued that the MPAs did not have a clear legislative authority to determine or propose schemes.
He added that, in view of the relevant directions issued by the high court, the provincial cabinet had already endorsed the ADP Policy 2019-23 and that the policy was already adopted by the high court.
Past traditions of allocating funds to the chief minister, ministers and MPAs have been shunned under the new scheme. The Chief Minister will no longer issue construction scheme guidelines, he added.
The advocate general argued that the DDAC had no role in development schemes since the enactment of the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act and KP Local Government Act, 2013, and then the high court had already ruled the DDAC to be only a proprietary recommendation body.
He continued that, as held by the court in previous judgments on petitions from other legislators, non-compliance with the DDAC Act was inconsequential.
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Mr. Butt claimed that posing expenditure issues were political questions that were best left to government policy and that the high court could not intervene with legal jurisdiction.
He said it was the government’s executive duty to budget and award construction projects, so they were not justifiable or should not be subject to judicial scrutiny.
The advocate general said that on the floor of the provincial legislature, the petitioners could lift the matter and discuss it there.
He added that the deputy commissioner had the right to oversee coordinated growth in the district under the KP Civil Governance Act, 2020.