Sheikh Asim Farooq v. Federation of Pakistan, W.P. No. 192069 of 2018 (Lahore High Court (30 August 2019)
In response to massive deforestation, Petitioners filed a writ petition asking the Lahore High Court to order the government of Pakistan to fulfill its obligations to protect the country’s forests. Para. 1. The Court recognized the existence and impact of deforestation in Pakistan, stating that it is, “unfortunate, catastrophic and shocking that the forests of the country are now almost extinct or at a decreasing rate. . . leading to increase in the spread of life threatening diseases.” Id. at para. 17.
The Court underscored the government’s Constitutional duty to create laws and policies that protect citizens’ fundamental rights, “namely the survival, economic and social uplift of the people of Pakistan.” Id. at para. 27. It noted that principles of environmental law, including principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle, the public trust doctrine, inter- and intra-generational equity, water and food justice, in dubio pro natura, and the polluter pays principle, “are part of our jurisprudence developed by our Supreme Court.” Id. at para. 25. The Court reviewed the many applicable laws related to trees and forests. Id. at paras. 32-80. Finally, the Court stressed that government duties should not be taken lightly: “commitment made under the doctrine of sovereignty should neither be lightly disregarded nor deliberately ignored.” Id. at para. 82.
The Court found that the government had failed to implement existing laws and policies, and held the government responsible for the ongoing crisis due to its inaction: “Had above-mentioned laws and policies properly been implemented by the Respondents Departments in letter and spirit with proper mechanism and procedure, the forest of Pakistan could have been saved for [sic] further depletion and deforestation.” Id. at para. 81. The Court allowed the writ of mandamus and ordered government agencies to reforest urban areas, enforce existing laws, enact new laws, and take a number of specific actions to counter deforestation. Id. at para. 83.