Wednesday February 21, 2024

Uproar in Sindh PA over Bagh Ibne Qasim issue

By our correspondents
April 01, 2017

Malik Riaz says Bahria Town will not take control of park until all stakeholders are on board; Karachi mayor says not against legal adoption of parks by private organisation

KARACHI: The opposition legislators of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement expressed their outrage in Friday’s provincial assembly proceedings against the Sindh government’s recent step to hand over the control of Bagh Ibne Qasim in Clifton from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation to Bahria Town.

Chairperson of Bahria Town Malik Riaz, however, said he will not take control of Bagh Ibne Qasim until all the stakeholders are on board. He said this while talking to Geo News on Friday.

Riaz added he will make sure the park is not used for commercial purposes, once it is under his control. “No entry fees will be charged,” he added.As the PA session started, the MQM parliamentary party leader, Syed Sardar Ahmed, tried to present an adjournment motion to raise the issue.

Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani, who was chairing the session, did not allow him to present the motion.Later, when the House had completed its given agenda, MQM MPA Faisal Ali Subzwari, on a point of order, raised the issue of the park.

Subzwari criticised the chair for turning down his parliamentary party leader’s attempt to present an adjournment motion on an issue of such great significance.He said though the Sindh government’s effort in developing a local government system for the province was praiseworthy, a provision had deliberately been inserted into the system enabling the government to hand over public parks to the private sector. Under this provision, he added, the Bagh Ibne Qasim had now been given to the Bahria Town.

He noted that even the elected administration of the city, including its mayor, had not been consulted on the issue. He expressed reservations that some portions of the park could be used for commercial purposes.

“For the last three or four years, the provincial government has deliberately neglected the park and turned it into ruins so that there’s justification for handing it over to a private company,” he alleged.

Responding to the point of order, local government minister Jam Khan Shoro assured the House that the park would not be allowed to be used for commercial purposes. “The new management of park will not even charge visitors,” he added. “This park will remain for all and we want to develop it.”

The minister said during the previous regimes, around 300 parks in the city were occupied and turned into offices of a political party. He added that Bagh Ibne Qasim had been handed over to the private company for 10 years. “They will be responsible for its renovation and beautification.”

He said it would be unjust to say that the park had been handed over to the firm for commercial gains.The MQM legislators protested when the minister in his speech criticised the party’s conduct in the past when it was handling the city’s municipal affairs.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Samar Ali Khan, who represents the residents of Defence and Clifton in his constituency, also expressed his reservations about the handing over of the park to Bahria Town.

He said the real estate developer was building a skyscraper, “Icon Tower”, adjacent to the park in Clifton and it had commercial interests in the entire neighbourhood.He acknowledged that the Sindh government was striving hard for the city’s development but pointed out that at the same time it had neglected Bagh Ibne Qasim.

Talking to reporters after the session, Subzwari said the provincial government had acted in a shady manner by handing over the biggest park of the city to a private company without even consulting the mayor.

He added that Karachi was witnessing a mushroom growth of skyscrapers and these constructions were being allowed after taking bribe money.The MQM MPA announced that his party would move the court against the provincial government’s decision to hand over Bagh Ibne Qasim to a private company without consultation of the concerned stakeholders.

Meanwhile, Sindh Local Govt Minister Jam Khan Shoro has said that the Sindh government besides using its own resources has been invoking support of concerned non-governmental organisations and philanthropists for restoration of recreational facilities, which were wrested back in the past from people of the city.

In a press statement issued on Friday to respond to the press conference of mayor Karachi earlier the same day, the provincial local govt minister said that the Sindh govt would allow adoption of parks by NGOs and philanthropists on the basis of the condition that no commercial activity would be allowed at these recreational areas.

He said that the Sindh govt had to step in to restore and do renovation work for public parks in the city due to sheer show of negligence by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation. He said that the Sindh govt had completed the renovation of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park in Clifton while development and restoration work was also in progress in Jahangir Park in Saddar.

He said that mayor Karachi during his past eight months spent in the mayoral office had failed to develop greenery and get plantation restored not even in a single portion of Bagh Ibne Qasim in Clifton.

He said that the provincial govt had decided to hand over the park in Clifton to Bahria Town completely on non-commercial basis so that people should be allowed visit to the recreational facility on free-of-cost basis. He said it was the MQM, which during its stints in power in the past, had established party offices in over 300 parks and also occupied their land. He said that the Sindh govt had been able to get vacated the encroached land of these parks after getting support of law-enforcement agencies.

He said that the people of Karachi would never forget the vicious role played by the MQM in handling affairs of Karachi as massive encroachment had been done on prime land and parks of Karachi.

He said that the people of the city knew well the positive act performed by PPP’s provincial govt, which had sought help of Rangers and other law-enforcement agencies to get demolished illegally-built party offices on amenity land.

Meanwhile, Mayor Karachi Wasim Akhtar has said the KMC assets were not the personal property of anyone, therefore, the people of Karachi would not allow to distribute these assets among others without the consent of the city council.

The premises of Bagh Ibne Qasim were gifted by the Parsi community to the Karachi city and the notification issued for its transfer to a private organisation was illegal and they will resist its implementation by submitting a petition in the court.

He said this while addressing a hurriedly-called press conference in Bagh Ibne Qasim in Clifton on Friday afternoon.  The Karachi mayor said he was not against the adoption of parks by a private organisation but this must be done by fulfilling all the legal formalities, which required the council’s approval along with other things.

Referring to the Section 74 of the SLGO 2013, he said this section said any function of the council can be transferred to the government or vice versa. He said only functions were described as transferable in this section of the act and not the assets. He said the notification of the secretary local government was thus in violation of the SLGO 2013. “We are elected people and we are not criticising anyone but just want to make correction or provide guidance in such matters.” He thanked Malik Riaz of Bahria Town for making him a phone call today and for telling him he will not adopt this park without taking on board the KMC Council and the Mayor of Karachi.

Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar said he was not against the adoption of parks or Baghe Ibne Qasim by  the Bahria Town but termed the procedure adopted by Sindh Secretary Local Government Ramzan Awam as totally illegal.

The secretary local government through a notification last night allowed Baghe Ibne Qasim to be adopted by Bharia Town as per a notification on non commercial basis.

Waseem said he had a lot of respect for Malik Riaz as a builder tycoon and as a kind gesture he (Malik)  also called and sent a twitter to him “that he will not adopt the park till the Mayor and city council were not taken into confidence.” The mayor said these were high words of Malik Sahib and they were with him in beautification of Karachi.

Waseem said before issuing a notification in this regard, the mayor Karachi and the city council should have been taken into confidence.

Replying to a question, he said if the Sindh secretary local government was interested in doing politics, he should resign and enter into the arena of politics.

Mayor said there was no writ of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah’s government and Sindh chief secretary should take notice how such a junior officer was taking such a decision by holding a press conference and issuing a notification.

The mayor said the bad governance of the Sindh government was shown by the apex court which said that the Solid Waste Management Board was incompetent of lifting the garbage. He said today the second bad governance was shown by issuing a notification for adoption of parks.

Waseem said the mayor Karachi and elected city council were there. “We are experts in building parks.”Waseem said this condition of park had been made by the Sindh government who had appointed administrators and they ruined this park.

Replying to a question that corrupt officers are still taking care of Baghe Ibne Qasim, the mayor said he has taken a serious notice in this regard.He further said that these parks can never be used for commercial purposes, which is illegal.

The mayor also showed to the media that the government has also mentioned that funds could also be released for development purposes.It may be noted here that Baghe Ibne Qasim was inaugurated by former city Nazim Mustafa Kamal and he had allowed free entry of people on the request of the media.

Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar said we will not accept the notification issued by the secretary local government and will challenge it on Monday in the Sindh High Court. The mayor claimed that the notification issued by secretary local government was illegal.