SC orders top officials to clear Karachi of encroachment

Published: January 27, 2019
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Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The apex court on Saturday ordered heads of various departments and institutions to remove encroachments from the state’s land in Karachi as protest was staged in the city against an earlier order for cancelling commercialisation of residential and amenity plots.

A two-judge Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmad and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, issued a four-page written order while hearing a case related to illegal constructions in Sindh’s capital.

The court issued notices to chairmen of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT), the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the K-Electric and the State Life Issuance Corporation as well as commissioner of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), directors general of the Airports Security Force (ASF) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP).

The court also summoned chairmen of all cantonment boards in Karachi along with a report about the removal of all sorts of commercial activities on military land, according to its previous order.

The order said the Sindh Advocate General (AG) had told the court that he was going to consult all relevant authorities for bringing Karachi its glory which will suit its residents.

“Likewise in this regard he stated that consultation shall also be made with all top city planners as to how existing buildings …. will be removed [and] the people who are dislocated and displaced by such plans are rehabilitated. The court noted that it seemed the lands along Malir River and of Korangi Industrial area have also been occupied for commercial area.”

Similarly there are many places all over Karachi which were meant to be open areas under the city plan or meant for parks or playgrounds but which have been occupied or have been allowed to be used for commercial purposes like marriage halls, markets and shopping malls.

“There are state lands belonging to various federal and provincial agencies that have been illegally occupied and before eyes of government, huge constructions have been made. The court also noted that there are railways lands wherein encroachments have been made,” it said.

The AG said he is going to find out a solution by holding a meeting of all relevant secretaries. He stated that there will be a meeting of provincial cabinet within two weeks.  “Likewise he stated that a comprehensive report will be submitted along with an original un-amended master plan of the city of Karachi,” the order stated.

Protest of marriage hall owners

Separately, hundreds of people swarmed the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) office in Karachi after it cancelled all its previous regularisation orders and started issuing notices to proprietors to end commercial activities on residential plots in three days, ie, by Jan 28 in line with the SC’s Jan 22 order.

The notice, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, was issued 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.

On receiving the notices, the affected people – mostly marriage hall owners – reached the SBCA office at Karachi’s Civic Centre. After scuffle with police, the people gathered outside the SBCA office and blocked the University Road.

Later, talks between the protestors and the authority remained unsuccessful as SBCA Director General Iftikhar Qaimkhani refused to compromise on the SC order. The protest caused a massive traffic jam in the area.

Later, the marriage hall owners announced strike for an indefinite period. However, the All Karachi Marriage Hall Association (AKMHA) later withdrew its call after talks with Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani, who assured them not to start the anti-encroachment operation from Monday.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, AKMHA President Rana Raees said the call for strike was withdrawn after Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Ghani took notice of the issue.

The Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) also announced suspension of its activities in solidarity with the marriage hall owners and other affectees after a meeting attended by school owners, marriage hall owners, builders and developers’ representatives.

Between 1970 and 2004, hundreds of residential plots were permitted to be commercialised for which billions of rupees in fees were also received. The status of many plots was changed when a separate scheme was announced in 2004 for the commercialisation of marriage halls.

[WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT IN KARACHI]

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