Speed bump: Slamming the brakes on the bulldozer

Encroachment drive on hold in city for last two months


Encroachment along the railway track in Nothia. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS

PESHAWAR:


The mean machines dedicated to clearing the ever-expanding provincial metropolis of illegal encroachments have been out of action for a while now. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government’s much-trumpeted initiative was stalled after the court issued a stay order against the action two months ago.


The drive was launched at the break of the new year to address Peshawar’s traffic woes and reclaim the space that once belonged to pedestrians, who used to stroll along the city’s walkways many years ago, until illegal occupants deprived them of the facility.



The encroachment drive has yet to be restarted in Gulbahar, Afridi Garhi, Yakatoot, Shaheen Muslim Town, Hussainabad, Nothia, Bala Mani, Charsadda Road and Faqirabad. While the project did achieve results early on, the drive came to a grinding halt when it came to multi-storey commercial plazas and constructions carried out by influential people.

No room to zoom

Khizr Khan, a resident of Gulbahar told The Express Tribune the streets that once belonged to locals have now been occupied by hawkers and stall owners.

“There is hardly any space to walk freely,” he said.

Khizr urged the government to restart the action and target the big fish as well.

According to other residents, the district administration has not entirely demolished illegal constructions. As a result, people were able to rebuild the structures.

“In most areas, the actual illegal structures have remained untouched,” said Usman Ali, another resident. “Even Gulbahar police station and the office of a local newspaper have been built illegally.

Benefit of the doubt

Some believe it is unfair to target the provincial government as encroachments have mushroomed in the city for many decades. Moreover, previous governments have also paid little attention to these encroachments, fearing it may adversely affect their vote banks. “Land grabbers were actually encouraged in the previous government,” said Sajid Awan, a trader. “Around 70% of commercial plazas in the city have been built in violation of building regulations.”

An official of Municipal Corporation Peshawar told The Express Tribune it is the influence of the land grabbers that prevents the government from adopting a firm stance.

“When their political connections did them no good, they obtained a stay order from the court,” he said, requesting anonymity.

Chief Municipal Officer Saleem Khan said the drive will be re-launched once the court vacates the stay. He admitted most of the commercial buildings were constructed in violation of laws. “The buildings that were constructed several years ago had car parks that have now been turned into shops,” he said. However, Saleem added the initiative has produced positive results as most encroachments in the city have been removed.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2015. 

COMMENTS (1)

A Peshawary | 6 years ago | Reply How can u expect good things under Khattak who was minister under Sherpao in the past. These are guards of old corrupt version of political forces under the new brand name. It has not worked and will never work. A Peshawary
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