KARACHI: Days after the Supreme Court banned the conversion of residential and amenity plots for commercial use and ordered to raze all illegal constructions in the metropolis, the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) has cancelled all its previous regularisation orders and started issuing notices to proprietors to end commercial activities on residential properties within three days, failing which their structures would be demolished. The authority has also banned the conversion of residential and amenity plots for commercial use henceforth.
The notice, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, was issued by the SBCA after the authority's Master Plan department identified 930 commercial establishments, whose land status had been changed from residential to commercial between 2004 and 2019.
The action comes after the SC's hearing on January 22, when the court had expressed annoyance with the SBCA DG, warning that he would be removed from the post if their orders weren't complied with. "Go and demolish every structure that is in violation of the city's original master plan and restore [Karachi] to its 40-year-old state," Justice Gulzar Ahmed had ordered, besides seeking the Sindh government's suggestions to restore the city to its 40-year-old condition. "Let the Sindh government take over the city if the local government can't run it," he remarked.
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According to an official of the Master Plan department, who spoke to The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity, the majority of these 930 plots are located on Sharae Faisal, PECHS, North Nazimabad, Tariq Road and Gulshan-e-Iqbal. The 23-page-long report includes details of the plot number and the area in which it is located.
According to the official, these residential plots were converted for commercial use in accordance with the government's policies after their owners had paid billions of rupees in fees. What will be the future of high-rise structures built on these plots?" he wondered.
As news of the SBCA's notices circulated among property owners, they expressed apprehension over the fate of their investments that had been made through official channels and following all rules and regulations in place at the time.
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As many as 26 major thoroughfares have been regularised for commercial use over the years, with the property owners taking advantage of the change in land status and converting their properties for commercial use after submitting the requisite challans prescribed by the government.
According to the Master Plan department, various roads were declared to be commercial in Karachi for the very first time in 1975. Subsequently, the Sindh government, which handled the land use affairs at the time, had converted several roads in 1978, 1980, 1989 and then 2001.
Hundreds of citizens, who owned properties on these roads, had opted to change the status of their plots for commercial use and had paid billions of rupees in fees for the purpose. The SBCA has now ordered these property owners and tenants to cease all commercial activities on these plots. Failure to do so could result in "demolition, sealing, registration of FIR, prosecution in court of law or any other penal action permissible under the rules," states the notice issued by the authority. When the SBCA DG Iftikhar Qaimkhani was contacted for his comments regarding the authority's future course of action, he excused that he was really busy and couldn't speak on the matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2019.