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Petrol smuggling breach of security, says LHC

LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan has ruled that smuggling of petrol from Iran into Pakistan is a serious charge against those at the helm of affairs.

“This is not short of shocking disclosure that one of the basic requirements of a country, directly connected with our security, was being completed through an illegal mean i.e. smuggling,” the chief justice observed in written order issued on Thursday about last week proceedings on a petition against shortage of petrol in the country.

Secretary Petroleum Asad Hayauddin had appeared before the court and stated that one of the reasons for shortage of petroleum products was strict check at Iran Border after March 19, 2020, from where approximately 1.2 metric ton of petrol was illegally smuggled inside Pakistan, on daily basis.

“Apart from the fact that such an illegal act is being conducted, it is very well in the knowledge of the concerned authorities, still allowing such illegal activity to continue, is a serious charge against all the concerned sitting on helm of affairs,” said the order.

About the failure of the government to control the shortage of the fuel, the chief justice observed that it is not only the federal government or the federal agencies who have shown exemplary slackness, even the authorities at provincial level have failed to do what the law had required from them.

He noted that there is no secret that on one hand the petroleum and allied products are like blood to the body in terms of daily usage/consumption in social, domestic and allied sectors, while on the other hand even the security of our nation is deeply connected with these commodities.

“Stoppage, shortage, hoarding of petroleum or lack of control on prices, mean the concerned responsible agencies are in a position to even compromise our sovereignty,” Chief Justice regretted in his order.

“This court is compelled to observe that prima facie it is tantamount to criminal negligence and once it is established from the record that the matter had been brought to the notice of the highest decision taking body i.e. federal cabinet, still inaction on its part, mean that the charge of criminal negligence cannot be restricted only to the government functionaries,” said the order.

It said unfortunately it appears that our agencies have failed or are badly failing to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens and in such a situation courts being custodian of the Constitution are to enforce fundamental rights in all respects.

The chief justice had also taken exception to non-appearance of Ogra’s chairperson Uzma Adil due to fear of Covid-19. An application for exemption from personal appearance was also filed on her behalf.

As per the written order, the application is dismissed with a cost of Rs100,000 to Ogra with further direction to the chairperson to ensure her presence in the court on next hearing. The principal secretary to the prime minister is also required to appear on next hearing while the secretary petroleum is directed to submit a report with his affidavit about stock position of respective license holder companies. The CJ will resume hearing on June 30.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020

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