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May 10, 2019

Encroachments issue: Karachi Circular Railway must be operationalised in a month, says SC

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May 10, 2019

KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected defence secretary's report on commercial activities on cantonment lands and said people say first get encroachments removed from military lands. It asked what was the justification of running marriage halls by the army.

Hearing a petition on unauthorized construction, the SC’s two-member bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, observed that 70 percent of the city has been occupied through unauthorized constructions and no action was being taken against such illegal constructions.

The court took an exception to secretary Ministry of Defence for not complying with the court directives with regard to removal of all sorts of commercial activities from cantonment boards land. The court observed that army authorities had no power to hand over military land to private persons. The court expressed dissatisfaction over the compliance report submitted by the secretary defence and observed that no action was taken in compliance of the court directives and the report was tantamount to hoodwinking the court.

The court inquired from secretary defence as to whether he knows about the consequences for not complying with the court directives as the court will initiate contempt of court proceedings against the officers who were found responsible for disobedience. The court observed that all state lands had been plundered and being used by private persons with the connivance of government functionaries.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan submitted that the court orders were not being violated and sought further time to examine the nature of properties as local laws are to be applicable to the extent of some federal government properties.

The counsel of marriage lawns submitted that the army land was lawfully rented out for purpose of temporary marriage lawns and he will pay Rs10 million rent, which will be utilised for welfare of martyrs' families. The court observed that garrison land could not be used for public purposes, adding that "we will also sacrifice our homes if DHA was not legal". The court, observed that the court had passed direction on January 22 but the orders of the court were still not complied with. The court observed that whenever the government wanted to do, it would take only five minutes to execute the orders.

The court asked what was the justification of running marriage halls by the army and observed that marriage halls were being operated in cantonment areas whether it was at Karsaz or PAF base, which is the reason for slow pace of anti-encroachment operation in the city as common people demanded that first encroachments be removed from cantonment board lands. The court directed secretary defence to comply with the court orders and remove all commercial activities from cantonment board land expeditiously and submit a detailed report by next session.

It directed the secretary railways to remove all encroachments from the railways land within two weeks and thereafter the Sindh government will take over the circular railways project and run the circular railways/local trains within one month.

The court directed that mayor Karachi, commissioner Karachi and chief minister Sindh shall ensure that schedule of operation of circular railway service be made available to the people. The court observed that affected persons were to be settled by the provincial government by providing them all basic amenities. It observed the Sindh CM was tasked with removal of illegal structures from city.

The court observed that local bodies minister and mayor Karachi reportedly said that they would not demolish unauthorized constructions and said that they may fight a legal battle with the court if they desired. It observed that the mayor wanted a confrontation with the SC and kept on saying he would not pull down illegal structures. The court directed chief secretary, KMC, MDA, LDA and other civic agencies to submit reports regarding removal of encroachments from amenity, government land, playgrounds along with google maps. The court observed that it is expected that chief minister Sindh will conduct a meeting with all stakeholders of the city, including mayor Karachi, to resolve the issues of the city as the situation was worsening day by day.

The court also issued contempt of court notice to local bodies minister Saeed Ghani on the application of Syed Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi, who sought action against local bodies minister for his reported statement in which he said that he will not allow demolition of the unauthorized buildings under the court orders and rather prefer tendering resignation.

The court observed that various government civic agencies, responsible for dealing the issues of Karachi, are not interested in carrying out their duties and there was absolute collapse of all civic agencies in the city of Karachi.

The court observed that all sorts of unauthorized constructions were allowed by encroaching government land, hospitals and amenities land meant for educational purposes.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the performance of government functionaries, including KDA, SBCA and other civic agencies, the court observed that officials were becoming pawns of vested persons which have nothing to do with their responsibilities. The court also dismissed review applications of marriage hall owners and cantonment boards.

The court took an exception over the performance of Sindh Building Control Authority and Karachi Development Authority and inquired from DG SBCA as to how multi-storied buildings have been constructed in Dehli Colony, TNT Colony and Punjab Colony in violation of the building bylaws.

The court observed that repair work was once again started at the University Road though it was completed two years back which was causing hardship to commuters. The court observed that illegal and unauthorized constructions have been raised in different parts of the city, including Saddar, Gulistan-e-Johar, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Khalid Bin Waleed Road and Tariq Road.

The court directed the DG SBCA to submit master plans of the city since 1952 along with amendments as to how many amenities' areas were converted for commercial and residential purposes. The DG SBCA submitted that the ongoing operation against unauthorized constructions was slowed due to the provincial government’s decision, which first wanted to rehabilitate the affected people of unauthorized construction.

The court admonished the DG SBCA for not taking action against unauthorized constructions in Clifton on the ground that the National Accountability Bureau’s inquiry was pending and observed that as to whether NAB was above the Supreme Court’s directives and directed him to take action as per the law.

Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar submitted that all powers, including financial powers of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, had been taken over by the provincial government through different notifications.