KARACHI: In court proceedings pertaining to encroachment cases on Thursday, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed ordered the immediate removal of Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) director-general Zafar Ahsan, as well as all corrupt officers.
Hearing a case pertaining to illegal constructions on Sharae Faisal, Sharae Quaideen and in Sindhi Muslim Cooperative Housing Society (SMCHS) at the Supreme Court's Karachi Registry, the bench, headed by the CJP and comprising Justices Faisal Arab and Sajjad Ali Shah, ordered the Sindh chief secretary to take additional charge as the SBCA DG.
"It is a common impression that the SBCA takes money for construction and its officials are involved in such construction," observed Justice Gulzar, adding that china-cutting of plots had been carried out in SMCHS and all the land on Kashmir Road.
Members of the Board of Revenue told the court that the land had been allotted to others by SMCHS.
"What would you do if someone allotted the entirety of Sharae Faisal?" demanded the CJP. "Here, letters are issued to allot all types of land."
When he expressed displeasure at construction on a nullah in SMCHS, Ahsan told the court that the building had been constructed on 'extra land.'
Justice Gulzar pointed out that this was china-cutting, adding that the situation in SMCHS and PECHS was beyond any understanding.
Claiming that Ahsan himself was involved in such activities, he said that the SBCA turned its eyes away from illegal high-rise construction on small plots for a bribe of Rs600,000 per floor.
Instructed Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to immediately remove Ahsan from his position, the court further ordered him to expel all corrupt and incompetent officials. The bench further told the chief secretary to restructure SBCA an.d take over its charge until a new DG could be appointed.
The court also directed authorities to immediately remove petrol pumps and other encroachments on the Sharae Quaideen nullah.
Functional LG bodies
In another case, the CJP asked CM Shah to tell the court in writing why he was not allowing the local government bodies to become fully functional.
Hearing a case pertaining to encroachments, the court declared the transfer of land adjacent to Aladin Park to a private individual as illegal, and cancelled its lease. "How can government land be granted without auction?" admonished the CJP.
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The bench further added the Karachi commissioner to immediately demolish the structure on the land and hand the plot over to the relevant department.
Lambasting the authorities over the state of the metropolis, Justice Gulzar said, "This is not a village, this is Karachi, once known as the jewel of Pakistan. It was exploited for the sake of vested interests, the parks and cemeteries have disappeared, and the city has been ruined."
He asked the chief secretary why the local government bodies here were not functional, wondering how the Sindh government was dealing with them.
The chief secretary responded that the provincial government had given most of the powers to Karachi mayor Wasim Akhtar, adding that the mayor's claims of being powerless were false.
Hearing a case pertaining to illegal occupancy at Kidney Hill Park, the Supreme Court gave orders for the removal of encroachments on 7.5 acres of land.
Karachi commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani told the court that all illegal occupancy had been ended, but the CJP pointed out that it was untrue. "Mr Commissioner, isn't your residence included [in the illegal occupancy]?" he asked. "All illegal encroachments will be demolished," he instructed.
In a separate case, the bench ordered the mayor to remove encroachments at Bagh Ibn Qasim within two weeks and restore the park to its original state.
Akhtar told the court that the illegally constructed building had been demolished, but there were iron rods at the site and the builders had taken a stay order pertaining to the rods' ownership.
Justice Gulzar told him to take the rods and vacate the land, upon which Akhtar said that if the land was vacated, someone else would take it.
"If you are so helpless, why do you contest elections and why do you need to become mayor?" the CJP lashed out.
The bench also expressed annoyance at the construction of a building at Benazir Bhutto Park in another case, issuing a notice to the building's owner.
Sea Breeze Plaza
The same bench ordered the Karachi Cantonment Board to submit a response within two weeks regarding the report by National Engineering Services Pakistan and Pakistan Engineering Council on the potential demolition of Sea Breeze Plaza.
Pointing out that the building had stood empty for decades and it was in poor condition, Justice Gulzar told Akhtar he should be concerned about the matter.
"I am concerned; I do not know how many such buildings there are," replied the mayor.
Reviewing the report, the CJP said he could no longer order the building to be maintained. Directing the Karachi Cantonment Board to submit a comprehensive response to the report in two weeks, the court said it should be made clear whether the building is to be demolished or not.
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