KARACHI: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday sought replies from the Pakistan Railways, the Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB) and other authorities concerned in suo motu proceedings against land encroachment at the Ladies Club.
A three-judge bench, also comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, initiated the proceedings at the Supreme Court’s Karachi Registry on a news report published in The Express Tribune in 2015 about encroachment on the land related to the Ladies Club, which is also a significant part of Sindh’s heritage.
Expressing dismay over the state of affairs in Sindh, Nisar remarked that there was no discipline in the province.
“After coming here, I have a feeling that there is no discipline in Sindh," the top judge noted on the 50th consecutive day of hearing cases, mostly related to maladministration in Sindh.
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“Perhaps [I] will have to hear cases here on a regular basis for six months,” he further remarked, asking Barrister Zamir Ghumro, the provincial advocate general, as to how matters were being handled in the province.
At the outset, Barrister Ghumro presented a report informing that the Ladies Club was part of the Jinnah Garden. Of the total 20,000 square yards of Jinnah Garden, the club was established on 3,000 square yards, he added.
He maintained that some portion of the land had been retrieved while the remaining was still encroached upon.
Barrister Ghumro said a public health centre, a press club, a school and a public library had been set up illegally on the Jinnah Garden’s land, while in the surrounding area the Pakistan Railways department had allowed encroachments.
CJP Nisar said, “Citizens’ fundamental rights will not be compromised at all.”
He asked the advocate-general what was happening in Sindh. “Even American President Donald Trump will not have the authority to allot a cabin in the United States,” he remarked.
He said that in Sindh even a deputy commissioner was distributing the state land, and every Tom, Dick and Harry was getting the allotment. “This is how it is happening,” he added.
The bench directed the advocate general and other authorities concerned to ensure that the public health office was removed and the press club shifted to some other place.
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“The land of the park cannot be allowed for personal use,” Justice Nisar observed, directing the advocate general to ensure that the land was not allotted to anyone else in the future.
Advocate Mushtaq Memon, representing a private party, informed the judges that his client had lawfully purchased the relevant portion of the park’s land through auction by the EPTB.
The bench issued notices to the PR, the EPTB and other authorities concerned to file their comments by the next date of hearing.
The bench also ordered the registrars of the Sindh High Court and the district and sessions court concerned to transfer to the SC the record of all the cases related to the dispute concerning lands adjacent to the Jinnah Garden.
The Ladies Club in Larkana lost a portion of its pre-partition building to the land mafia.
“In 2004, the government had announced that it will sell the club and the plot to a builder but we protested with the help of civil society and some political parties and managed to save it,” said Dr Sabiha Mughal, the Ladies Club chairperson. “Now, two of our shops have been occupied and the land mafia has become active once again to grab this precious plot and historical building.”
The Gomibai Jawaharmal Ladies Club was built by a Hindu deputy collector, who named it after his sister. On January 3, 1934, the club was inaugurated by RE Gibson, the wife of a senior British bureaucrat. The club has around 107 members and it runs without any financial support from the government. Its governing and management committee manages its affairs with the help of the annual membership fee of Rs4,000 that each member pays.
The club, which is a significant part of Larkana’s heritage, has hosted some famous guests in its time.
“This is the club which Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan visited several times after the launch of the All Pakistan Women Association,” the apex court had been told previously. Members of the club had also given a reception to Lady Mountbatten.
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