KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said on Wednesday that the provincial government was ready to launch Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), for which the Pakistan Railways would have to hand over right of way (ROW) to the Sindh government in the next 15 days. An anti-encroachment drive was also conducted in Gulshan-e-Iqbal to clear the railway’s land.
While presiding over a meeting at the Chief Minister House, he said that he was committed to the KCR and had been holding meetings in China and Islamabad. He said that plans for the project were approved in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor related Joint Coordination Committee. The feasibility study for the project has already been conducted and now, the federal government approval remains along with the sovereign guarantee.
Murad directed the transport department to write a letter to the railway authorities with the request to transfer the ROW to the provincial government and remove encroachments so that international tenders could be invited.
It was decided in the meeting that notices could be issued to people, who were illegally allotted lands in Kidney Hill and Hill Park, for appearance before the Supreme Court (SC).
Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani informed the CM that the hockey ground of YMCA has been restored.
The CM directed Shallwani to remove the encroachments from pedestrian walkways around the Metropole Hotel. The commissioner said that some parts of the walkways have been cleared and the Village restaurant at the corner of Metropole Hotel would be cleared in the next 24 hours.
Shallwani also told the CM that the area near Aladin Park office has been sealed and a report would be submitted to the SC in this regard.
Murad directed the commissioner to monitor the sweeping and cleaning work of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Authority (SSWMA) in South, East, West and Malir districts. The cleanliness of the city was his top priority, he said.
The CM also directed Karachi Water and Sewerage Board Managing Director Asadullah Khan to ensure the supply of water is not obstructed during Ramazan.
Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani, Adviser to CM on Law, Anti-Corruption Establishment, and Information Murtaza Wahab, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Principal Secretary to CM Sajid Jamal Abro, Home Secretary Kazi Kabir, Local Government Secretary Khalid Hyder Shah, Karachi Development Authority director-general, Sindh Building Control Authority director-general and representatives of transport department attended the meeting.
An anti-encroachment operation has been launched on KCR land in Gulshan-e-Iqbal C3 in accordance with the SC’s orders. In the first phase, the huts present on the railway land were removed.
The residents said that the administration should have notified them earlier so that they could have evacuated. They said that they are charged Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 monthly per hut as rent by members of a political party. The party members expel the people from the huts who are unable to pay the rent. On Tuesday night, they had come to collect rent.
The residents asked where would they go now, in this impoverished condition, and where would they spend their nights with their children.
Police force was deployed in the area during the operation, therefore there was no retaliation against the operation.
The SC has recently ordered again to immediately vacate the KCR’s land. The residents of the huts in Gulshan-e-Iqbal came out of their homes when the administration reached there with the police to launch the anti-encroachment operation. They requested that the administration grant them an hour to remove their possessions from the huts themselves which the administration approved.
The administration began to raze the huts using a shovel. More than 100 huts were razed in three to four hours of the operation.
While talking to the media a senior official of the Railways department, Shah Muhammad Mastoi, said that the encroachments would be removed from the Railway’s land and if anybody resisted the operation, they would be dealt with according to the law.
A total of 20 kilometres of Railway’s land in East district is occupied and will be evacuated soon. Around seven kilometres of Railways land in Central district was cleared in December 2018.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2019.