Nawaz Sharif aide removed from key post by Pakistan’s Supreme Court
Pakistan’s Supreme Court removed Siddiqul Farooq, a close aide of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, from the top post of a key minority body on Wednesday while hearing a case regarding the maintenance of Katas Raj temple.
Sharif had appointed Farooq as chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), the government entity charged with the upkeep of shrines of religious minorities, in 2014.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar observed that Farooq was not eligible to hold the post. Nisar made the announcement while hearing the suo moto case over Katas Raj and the drying up of its sacred pond.
The Supreme Court had summoned Farooq on Wednesday over his appointment and role in the ETPB. During previous hearings, the bench had berated him over his negligence.
When he appeared before the bench, Farooq said he had earlier worked at the PML-N office, which the chief justice would visit sometimes. Nisar directed the federal government to remove him from the post and to appoint an apolitical person. The chief justice also said that protecting minorities “is part of our religion”.
Farooq had earlier served as the spokesman for the ruling PML-N party and Sharif’s press secretary during a previous term as prime minister.
The Amrit Kund or sacred pond at Katas Raj is said to be drying out because large amounts of groundwater are being drawn by nearby cement factories, which have allegedly drilled hundreds of bore wells. This has severely reducing the subsoil water level in the area around the temple.
The bench had earlier sought a timeline from the cement factories located around Katas Raj in Chakwal for making alternate arrangements for water. The court told the factories that once the timeline is in place, they will not be allowed to take water from tube wells, highlighting the shortage of groundwater in the region.