Apex court wants parks, playgrounds retrieved

Chief secretary directed to investigate possible connivance of govt officials in illegal occupations

Our Correspondent June 15, 2018
Karachi Registry of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: PPI/FILE

KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) has taken notice of the illegal occupation of parks and playgrounds in the city on a contempt petition filed by former mayor Naimatullah Khan.

A two-member bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, heard the matter on Thursday at the SC's Karachi Registry. The bench directed the Sindh advocate-general (AG) to take action against those responsible for the illegal occupation of parks.

The apex court also ordered the chief secretary to investigate whether the land grabbers occupied parks and playgrounds of the city in connivance with government officers. The court gave one month to the AG and chief secretary to submit a report in that regard.

The bench expressed its displeasure with the authorities for their failure to end the illegal occupation of parks and playgrounds. Justice Ahmed observed that Karachi looked like a big slum and it seemed that 90% of the city had been destroyed.

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The court asked the AG where the Rs250 billion were spent on Karachi and whether there was some institution that could hold others accountable. Justice Ahmed remarked that those who were supposed to hold others accountable were not doing their job and were corrupt themselves.

The country could not run merely on prayers and pragmatic solution was required to resolve its issues, remarked Justice Ahmed. If only prayers were required to run a country, situation of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria would not be what it was, he said.

The apex court observed that there was a time when even if one inch was illegally occupied, action would be taken against the perpetrators, however, now, buildings were being erected on land that was designated for parks, playgrounds and sewage canals. The bench remarked whoever wanted to construct illegal buildings on such land, could easily do so after paying bribe.

The SC asked the AG what the government had been doing for the past ten years. Bath Island was destroyed by the construction of Mai Kolachi Road, the apex court remarked.

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The case is being heard since 2010, however, no progress has been achieved, the bench remarked. The SC observed that European countries were sensitive about their heritage sites and even today people preferred to ride bicycles in their old congested areas instead of cars as cars would damage the old areas.

The apex court lamented that the beauty of Burnes Road was tarnished. The bench remarked that the archaeology department had billions of rupees in funds and it needed to be held accountable.

The SC bemoaned the fact that there were no playgrounds on major roads of Karachi. The bench lamented that one of the biggest cities in the world was being subjected to such a poor treatment.

Earlier, trains could be seen from anywhere on Sharae Faisal, Justice Ahmed remarked, adding that now walls had been raised everywhere on the road, blocking the vision of surroundings.


SC seeks master plan

On a case related to a drain in PECHS, the SC directed the federal works department to submit the master plan of Karachi.

A two-member bench heard arguments from the federal, provincial and local governments.

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A lawyer representing Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, Samir Ghazanfar, argued that cleaning of the drain could not be carried out due to the conflict over drain's boundaries. The lawyer stated that the conflict needed to be resolved immediately as monsoon season was around the corner and if the drain was not cleaned, it could submerge PECHS during rains.

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah remarked that during previous rains, boats had to cruise in PECHS.  He asked why the departments concerned were not serious about the issue.

The KMC lawyer maintained that a building had been illegally constructed on H Market drain's land.

The Sindh Building Control Authority informed the SC that it did not have the master plan of Karachi, to which the apex court remarked some authority should have the master plan as Karachi was once the capital of the federal government.


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