The Supreme Court (SC) directed the relevant authorities on Thursday to complete the restoration of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) and hand over the project to the Pakistan Railways (PR) within nine months.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, issued the directives while hearing the case pertaining to the KCR's revival at the SC's Karachi Registry.
At the hearing, Karachi commissioner Naveed Ahmed Shaikh maintained that the KCR track had been handed over to the PR after the removal of encroachments.
"If the encroachments have been cleared, what is delaying the restoration of the project?" the CJP inquired.
At that, the project director informed the court the 14-kilometre-long Orangi Station track, which had nine stations along its route, had been restored. Moreover, the PR secretary said the track between City and Drigh Road Station had also been made operational.
The secretary also stated that the contract for work related to the KCR had been given to the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO).
When the counsel for the FWO denied that the organization had been given the contract, the transport secretary contended that the work order in that regard had been issued with the approval of the cabinet.
"Rs25 million was sought in advance [by the FWO] for the projects' prefeasibility and the amount has been paid," the secretary said.
Irked by the information, the CJP remarked, "The FWO has not been assigned the job to make money. This project is in public interest and you are asking for money?"
Justice Ahsan also commented that the FWO should have completed the task for which it had taken Rs25m.
At that, the FWO commanding officer replied that the organisation had given four options to Sindh government and the PR and work on two of those options would be initiated.
Elaborating on the options, the transport secretary informed the court that 11 underpasses and one flyover were to be constructed and a final decision regarding the matter would be taken during a meeting on April 10.
"Do you have the relevant experience for this construction?" the CJP inquired from the FWO commanding officer.
When the officer replied in the affirmative, the CJP referred to a report submitted by the Sindh chief minister, in which the CM had maintained that the FWO did not have the expertise for the work in question.
Moreover, the counsel for the PR informed that court that a nullah in Gulshane-Iqbal was hampering the completion of the KCR's restoration.
Kidney Hill Park
Separately, a three-member bench, also headed by the CJP, issued notices to the Karachi commissioner, nongovernmental organization Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment and the Sindh advocate general in a plea pertaining to encroachments on Kidney Hill Park's land.
At the hearing, the CJP inquired about the removal of encroachments from Kidney Hill Park's land. The Karachi commissioner informed the court that 28 houses of Faran Cooperative Housing Society and Overseas Cooperative Housing Society had been constructed on the park's land and needed to be razed.
However, the counsel for the affected residents maintained that the houses were not built on park premises and even then, they had been marked with red crosses for demolition.
At that, the CJP remarked that the counsel was unable to convince the court that the houses were not built on the park's land. Besides, the petitioner, Amber Ali Lari, maintained that the residents of the two societies had expanded the boundaries of their houses, encroaching upon the park's land.
"The park's actual area was 62 acres and now it has shrunk to 58 acres," the petitioner said, and moved the court to order the removal of encroachments from the park's land.
Read more: PR limits KCR operations
Moreover, Advocate Khawaja Shamsul Islam said a shrine had also been built on the park's land, at which the CJP rebuked the Karachi commissioner.
Directing the relevant authorities to remove slums from the park' land, the court issued notices to the respondents and adjourned the hearing.
Separately, the court expressed annoyance over the Karachi commissioner's failure to remove encroachments from the city's parks. The court directed the commissioner to complete the renovation of Bagh Ibne Qasim and submit a progress report at the next hearing.
Additionally, the court also rejected the request of the residents of houses built on Kidney Hill Park premises to become a party in the plea pertaining to the removal of encroachments built on parks' land.
At another hearing, pertaining to illegal construction on Sharae Quaideen, the court issued a notice to the builder of Nasla Tower, seeking records of the residential building said to be constructed on a nullah.
The court also granted an extension to the Sindh advocate general and Karachi commissioner to give an explanation on the appointment of mukhtiarkar.