KARACHI: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed ordered authorities on Thursday to restore Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) within a week and remove all encroachments from the route.
The circular railway is a looping network of several stations that was expected to connect various parts of the city. Almost two decades ago, the transit project was abandoned. Since then, the railway land has been encroached upon or illegally occupied by people looking for a piece of land in the burgeoning megacity.
A three-member bench, presided by CJP Gulzar and comprising Justices Faisal Arab and Sajjad Ali Shah, heard the case pertaining to the restoration of KCR in the Supreme Court's Karachi Registry. Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon, Mayor Wasim Akhtar and Sindh Chief Secretary Mumtaz Ali Shah appeared before the court.
The court also issued a contempt notice to Sindh Labour Minister Saeed Ghani over his remarks of not removing the encroachments, and ordered Karachi commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani to remove all encroachments from land belonging to Pakistan Railways.
When Justice Gulzar inquired about the progress made in KCR's restoration, the Sindh advocate general replied that it was 'impossible' to restore the old KCR.
"There were 24 [KCR] gates, most of which are encroached," he said, adding that the land was to be provided by the railways ministry.
However, the railways secretary said the ministry was completing its responsibilities and was not responsible for delays in the project.
At this, the CJP observed that even though the ministry had not done its job according to the agreement, "what have you [the Sindh authorities] done?"
Full steam ahead: KUTC to be handed over to Sindh govt for KCR revival
Turning to the mayor, he asked, "What have you done until now? You are the real head of Karachi. Whether it is the Railway Housing Society or petrol pumps, demolish whatever is in the way. We need KCR to be restored in its original form."
Ordering the railways secretary to submit relevant documents, the court warned that if it was not satisfied, everyone involved would be handed contempt notices.
Green Line project
As the same bench conducted a hearing pertaining to mega transport projects in the city, the CJP stated that no permission would be granted for construction for the Green Line bus rapid transit (BRT) project on land reserved for parks or amenities.
"Where do the buses in Karachi go? I had heard that 500 buses were brought in for the inauguration - where did they go the next day?" he asked.
Mayor Akhtar said that several buses had become useless, upon which the chief justice expressed displeasure.
Meanwhile, the project's chief executive officer Sualeh Farooqui told the court that the Green Line BRT's infrastructure was completed in 2018, adding that it was built on Japanese models.
"That is Japan, but this is Karachi," remarked Justice Gulzar. "Will you spend Rs1 billion to run a single bus? The project could worsen the city's situation."
Farooqui responded that the project was approved as per its plans. At this, the CJP, expressing concern that it would create gridlocks in the city, asked him when it would be completed.
Farooqui replied that it would be done in a year by March 2021, while the necessary buses would also arrive at that point.
Justice Gulzar asked how the Green Line would run on MA Jinnah Road. "What visions are you showing [the people]?"
The court ordered that no amenity plots should be affected by the project, adding that it would not give permission for the Green Line BRT to cross any parks or amenity plots.Building parks on CAA land
The bench further gave orders to build parks at the Civil Aviation Sport Complex and Neher-e-Khayam.
‘Centre refuses to run Karachi Circular Railway’
During a hearing pertaining to the allotment of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) land, the CAA director general told the court that permission to build a squash complex was granted but the land was withdrawn in 2013.
"The land is vacant; why don't you build a park?" Justice Gulzar remarked, adding that a park would also be built at Neher-e-Khayam. He gave orders for construction within six months.
When the CAA director-general protested that the area had high commercial value, the chief justice replied that the airport was enough for commercial value.
During another hearing, the court ordered the demolition of boundary walls around the Muslim Gymkhana and the YMCA ground.
While the Muslim Gymkhana lawyer argued that it was inappropriate to demolish the wall due to security, Justice Gulzar asked, "Are there problems of security in parks? Does the polo ground nearby have high walls?"
In his remarks, he remarked that the public should be able to see the Muslim Gymkhana building. He added that if court orders were not adhered to, contempt proceedings would be initiated against the Muslim Gymkhana elected body.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Shalwani told the court that illegal occupation of parks had been removed and commercial activities and wedding ceremonies terminated at the YMCA, adding that they were making a hockey ground there.
The court ordered tree plantation at the YMCA ground and the demolition of its boundary wall, to be replaced with an iron fence.