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SC immediately removed ETPB chairman

01 February, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed immediate removal of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) chairman Siddiqul Farooq on the grounds that his three-year tenure had expired.

The court also directed the federal government to appoint a new chairman according to the law. A three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan was hearing a suo motu case pertaining to deteriorated condition of Katas Raj Temple in Chakwal district.

The chief justice noted that the appointment of Siddiqul Farooq was made on a political basis and it was controversial, adding that his performance as head of the ETPB, which looks after the affairs of religious places of minorities in the country, was not up to the mark.

Appearing before the court on notice, when Siddiqul Farooq stated that before his appointment as ETPB head he worked as spokesman at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) office where the chief justice also used to visit sometimes, the chief justice ordered the federal government to immediately remove him and fill the post with the appointment of a non-political and duly qualified person. “How can he retain the post when his tenure had expired?” the chief justice asked. During several previous hearings of the case, the court had been showing displeasure over the appointment of Siddiqul Farooq as the ETPB head, noting that he was negligent of his duties and his appointment was made purely on a political basis, which was nepotism.

“How long will the political appointments continue to be made in the country, the chief justice had noted, adding that the credentials of Siddiqul Farooq for the appointment as ETPB head was his 30 years of political service”. The chief justice had also noted that Siddiqul Farooq who collected newspapers in the PML-N office was appointed to such an important post.

The then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif had appointed Siddiqul Farooq as the ETPB chairman in October 2014 on the vacant post of ETPB head. Siddiqul Farooq has been working as PML-N’s spokesman and Nawaz Sharif’s press secretary during his previous tenure as prime minister. Siddiqul Farooq has also served as the House Building Finance Corporation chairman in the past.

The EPTB is a statutory board that manages religious properties and shrines of Hindus and Sikhs who had migrated to India following the partition.

On November 2, 2017, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, had taken a suo motu notice on media reports that Katas Raj temple pond was drying out fast as nearby cement factories sucked up large quantities of groundwater through a number of drilled wells.

According to reports, about nine wells have severely reduced subsoil water levels, besides affecting the water usage of domestic users in the vicinity of the Katas Raj temple.

Katas Raj is considered to be the second most sacred shrine of the Hindu religion. Its origin dates back to 600AD, and the temple complex has been built around a water pond, which in Hindu mythology was formed by the tears of Shiva, as he wept uncontrollably over the loss of his wife, Sati.

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