LAHORE: Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court (LHC) issued orders on Monday for the government to shut down all schools and colleges in Punjab on Saturdays. This decision was made citing the failure of provincial authorities to effectively address the escalating smog crisis.
The directives were given during a hearing focused on the measures taken by the Punjab government to combat the surge in air pollution in recent days.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the Lahore commissioner’s performance, the judge mandated the implementation of a two-day work-from-home policy. He criticized the commissioner, stating, “Commissioner Lahore has failed completely in controlling smog. He talks big but nothing happens on the ground. Just a notification is issued to shut everything.”
Justice Karim further directed the immediate removal of deputy commissioners in Sheikhupura, Jhang, Hafizabad, Khanewal, Nankana, and Bahawalnagar, stressing the severity of the situation in these districts. The chief secretary of Punjab was instructed to promptly issue a notification for the transfer of the aforementioned officers.
Additionally, the judge ordered the removal of the director general of environment, expressing disappointment at videos depicting crop residual burning.
Commenting on the government’s approach, Justice Karim remarked, “Everything is shut down through a notification; all the officers go on leave after the government announcement.” He highlighted the impact of brief traffic stops, stating, “The entire city gets disrupted if the traffic stops for five minutes. Most smog is caused by vehicle exhaust.”
During the proceedings, the counsel for the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) mentioned the swift construction of an underpass by the provincial government. However, Justice Karim cautioned about the potential smog consequences and urged consideration of other matters.
The judge instructed the commission member to convene a meeting with the Punjab chief secretary to communicate the court’s orders. The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.
In response to escalating smog levels, the Punjab government had previously declared a public holiday on November 10 in Lahore, Gujranwala, and other districts, leading to the closure of various establishments. However, the lockdown was lifted after heavy rainfall in parts of Punjab improved air quality by washing away the smog.