Clearing away: Traders raise hackles over encroachment drive in Haripur

Association members accuse administration of selective action

Our Correspondent June 13, 2015

HARIPUR: Traders have accused Haripur DC Humayun Khan of deliberately trying to destabilise law and order by demolishing 52 shops in the district’s main bazaar.

During a meeting held in Haripur on Saturday, All Traders Association (ATA) President Raja Hafeez said the DC has served notices to over 1,000 shopkeepers, including 52 lessees of the town municipal administration (TMA), in the main bazaar.

“Khan asked them to voluntarily vacate the land they had illegally occupied for years,” the ATA president said. “The notices have been issued because the traders had encroached upon the state’s land. However, the demolition will affect hundreds of families who are affiliated with local businesses.”

Hafeez maintained the TMA had approved construction plans for the aforementioned shops. “The administration would not have endorsed the construction if they were encroachments,” he said. “Moreover, shopkeepers have been paying rent and taxes for the last four decades. Asking them to wind up their businesses would deprive them of their fundamental rights.”

Selective action

Speaking on the occasion, Haji Abdul Saboor Qureshi, a former naib nazim of Shumali union council, said the administration is demolishing shops in a specific part of the city only, avoiding direct conflict with influential people who have occupied government land in other areas.

“The Haripur DC is selectively taking action,” Qureshi said. “Eastern Circular Road, Mochi Bazaar, Loharan Bazaar and other areas are replete with encroachment. However, the administration is focusing on snatching the livelihood of shopkeepers in this area alone.”

Another ATA member Abdul Basit also condemned the decision to demolish shops in the main bazaar. “The DC should launch an encroachment drive in areas where influential people have occupied land allocated for water channels,” he added.

Earlier on Thursday, ATA members met Hazara Commissioner Akbar Khan and threatened to hold district-wide protests if the administration does not reconsider its decision.

Last week, the DC had issued notices to over 1,000 shopkeepers in the main bazaar who had encroached on government land from between two to six feet from Chowk Panian and Sheranwala Gate. However, shopkeepers obtained a stay order against Khan’s decision. The next date of the hearing for shops which are privately-owned has been fixed for June 20. Meanwhile, the court has stayed the decision to demolish the 52 shops owned by TMA until Monday.

The other view

Although the Haripur DC was not available for comments, an insider told The Express Tribune many shopkeepers have encroached on the state’s land.

“There are hundreds of shopkeepers who have violated the law,” he said. “The administration is planning on taking action against them on the directives of the provincial government.

According to the insider, some traders and shopkeepers are politically affiliated with local leaders and are not complying with the law.

“The administration will go ahead with its decision after the court announces its decision,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2015.


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