Petrol smuggling from Iran a serious charge against those at helm of affairs: LHC

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ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court said Thursday that the smuggling of petrol from Iran to Pakistan is a serious charge against all those who were “sitting at the helm of affairs

“This is not short of a 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,” LHC chief justice Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan observed in a written order issued on Thursday about last week’s 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 the shortage of petroleum products in the country was a strict check at the Iran-Pakistan border after March 19, 2020, from where approximately 1.2 metric tonnes of petrol is smuggled into Pakistan on a daily basis.

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

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

He noted that there is no secret that on the 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, even the security of the nation is deeply connected with these commodities. 

“Stoppage, shortage, hoarding of petroleum or lack of control on prices mean the responsible agencies are in a position to even compromise our sovereignty,” the 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 has been brought to the notice of the highest decision-taking body i.e. federal cabinet, still inaction on its part means the charge of criminal negligence cannot be restricted only to 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 the custodian of the Constitution are to enforce fundamental rights in all respects.”

The chief justice had also taken exception to non-appearance of Ogra Chairperson Uzma Adil due to fear of COVID-19. 

An application for exemption from personal appearance was filed on her behalf. As per the written order, the application is dismissed with a cost of Rs 100,000 to Ogra with further direction to the chairperson to ensure her presence in the court on the next hearing. 

The principal secretary to the prime minister is also required to appear on the next hearing while the secretary petroleum is directed to submit a report with his affidavit about the stock position of respective license-holding companies. 

The CJ will resume the hearing on June 30.

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