‘Absence of a master plan for Karachi benefits corrupt officials’

Failure to release notification lands authorities in trouble with water commission


Our Correspondent October 02, 2018
File photo of a road in Karachi. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: The head of the Supreme Court-mandated Judicial Commission on Water and Sanitation, Justice (retd) Ameer Hani Muslim lashed out on Monday at the provincial authorities for not complying with the orders of the commission and the Supreme Court regarding the release of notification for the city’s master plan.

The commission has now ordered the authorities to present a report explaining reasons for the delay. It has once again demanded the provincial government to follow court orders and deploy the industries secretary to ensure the monitoring of commercial usage in the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE) area. The commission has barred the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) from allowing industrial plots for commercial use and has asked the government to present its policy regarding the commercialisation of industrial areas. “The government must expedite action on court orders,” said the commission’s head.

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During the hearing on Monday, the commission also extended the time given to factory owners to install septic tanks and treatment plants. It warned that noncompliance would lead to the closure of their companies.

Addressing the SBCA director-general, the court remarked that failure to forward summaries has led to the termination of two prime ministers and warned him that similar course may be followed for him. “Your department has people who do not even know where to put comma and semi colons,” said Justice (retd) Muslim, adding that they should voluntarily resign from their posts.

The hearing was attended by industries secretary, additional advocate-general, SBCA director-general, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board’s (KWSB) managing director, and other officials. Regarding the commercial use of industrial plots, Additional Advocate General (AG) Shabbir Shah sought time from the court to prepare the documents. “We have a new chief secretary who is being briefed about the case. The Sindh government will respect the orders of the commission and will ensure full implementation,” he said.

Barrister Shabbir Shah also requested the commission for a week’s time to the Sindh government so that it could get all the information ready. “It must be seen how irregularities of the past could be handled” he said. Justice (retd) Muslim remarked that it was a matter of misuse of powers rather than the misapplication of policy. “The provincial government is found to be part of criminal negligence. The government took no measures against illegal actions,” he said. He questioned why action had not been taken against the incriminating officers. “Can you name a single person who was removed from his post for embezzlement?” he questioned.

Barrister Shah told the court that such irregularities were commonplace so it would be difficult to carry out any action. “Commercial activities are being undertaken on all sides of the roads leading to the industry. We need legislation in this regard,” he said.

Barrister Shah admitted that decisions to give legal status to illegal structures were taken in the past.

The commission noted that factories were disposing around 12,000 tons of toxic waste into the sea on a daily basis. “What would happen to the residents of the area from which this toxic waste passes?” Justice (retd) Muslim demanded. The big cities of Sindh do not even have any master plan. While Karachi does have a master plan for 2020, the SBCA’s DG perhaps remains clueless, he said.

The SBCA chief told the court that Karachi has seen four master plans until now and a grand notification has been released after approval from the city council. However, the commission said that the provincial government had not released any notification in this regard.

On the other hand, the Sindh AG sought time for release of the notification while SBCA DG told the commission that the summary for the changes had been floated. Justice (retd) Muslim expressed dissatisfaction over the outdated mechanism of summaries. “Yousuf Raza Gilani floated the summary only to find that he had to go home,” the commission’s head told the SBCA official. Justice (retd) Muslim demanded that the provincial authorities present the master plan if there was any, to which additional AG said that they had a master plan dating back to the British era. This further infuriated the commission.

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Barrister Shah said that the Supreme Court (SC) had ordered the authorities to release notification for the master plan in March 2018. “I do not know whether the notification has been released or not. Give me time and I will find it out,” he said, to which the commission again expressed surprise over the noncompliance of the SC orders. “It seems that the provincial government departments d not want to have any master plan because that would deprive them of their everyday bribes and kickbacks,” the commission remarked. The commission has ordered the provincial government to immediately release the notification, failing which legal action will be initiated.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2018.

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