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February 10, 2020

Residents protest as SBCA tells them to vacate apartment building

Karachi

February 10, 2020

Residents of Moon Garden, an apartment building situated on plot number NC-309, Deh Okewari, Tappo Songal, District East in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, staged a protest sit-in against the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) on Sunday evening, after the latter issued notice to them to vacate the building in seven days.

The deadline expires tomorrow (Tuesday, February 11). The notice was issued on February 4, which said the building had to be vacated in compliance with the court orders. The residents were also warned in the letter that in case they failed to vacate it before the deadline, the SBCA would take action under the Sindh Building Control Ordinance, 1970, without issuing any further notice.

The issue emerged in the year 2015, when the allegation was levelled that a portion of the building had been illegally constructed on the land of the Pakistan Railways Employees’ Cooperative Housing Society.

Claiming that the land in question belonged to it, the housing society approached the Sindh High Court, which ordered the authorities to get the building vacated and demolish it. The high court order, however, was challenged and a stay order was obtained from the Supreme Court (SC).

Then federal railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique had explained that the Pakistan Railways had provided the land on a 99-year lease in the year 1988 to the railways employees’ housing society after fulfilling all the legal requirements and received Rs1,297,000. Once the land was leased, the Pakistan Railways could not interfere in its affairs, the former minister had said.

A survey by the SBCA revealed that the Moon Garden was constructed in violation of the building plan and the builder did not even obtain any no-objection certificate for it.

In March 2019, the SC withdrew its stay order after the builder failed to deposit Rs100 million as surety for the residents.

Last month, the Pakistan Railways Employees’ Cooperative Housing Society wrote a letter to the executive officer of the Faisal Cantonment Board about the building. The letter read that the building had been illegally constructed on the land after the builder encroached upon it.

According to the letter, eight residential plots measuring 240 square yards each from A-41 to A-48, and commercial land measuring 7,960 square yards fell within the limits of the Faisal Cantonment Board. The housing society, therefore, asked the cantonment board to get the encroachment on its land removed.

Meanwhile, Jameel Ahmed, the president of the association of the Moon Garden residents, claimed that the letter issued to seal the building by the SBCA was in violation of the SC’s order issued on January 7, 2020. He said that according to the order, the apex court gave three-month time to get the building vacated.

According to Ahmed, if there is a quarrel between the builder and the Pakistan Railways, the residents must not bear the brunt of that. “If the court has given three months, how come SBCA is bent on vacating the building just in seven days,” he said, adding that the residents could file another appeal.

During the protest on Sunday, a few of the residents forcibly shut down several estate agency shops constructed in the building.

“The builder has been inaugurating new projects in the area, celebrations are going on and here we are being served notices to vacate our homes,” shouted an elderly lady and asked where they would go if they were forced to leave their homes. “Why the builder isn’t taken to task and he roams freely in the area.”

It has been a few years since Mrs Ali shifted to the apartment and she had no idea that it was constructed on a disputed land. “If we have the lease and all documents, how can it be disputed?” she asked and added that why the project was allowed to be constructed in the first place if the land had been encroached upon.