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February 7, 2021

PPP-PTI feud escalates as farmhouses of Haleem Adil Sheikh’s relatives razed

Karachi

February 7, 2021

The feud between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) escalated on Saturday after the District Malir administration along with the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) apparently launched an anti-encroachment operation against only two farmhouses in the district’s Memon Goth.

PTI Vice President and provincial assembly opposition leader Haleem Adil Sheikh later claimed that the farmhouses belonged to his brother and cousin. But Local Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah said that the operation was against encroachments in the Malir district.

Shah said that these anti-encroachment operations are a part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s policy against land grabbers in the country. He requested the PTI leadership to support operations against land grabbers. According to SBCA officials, over 30 farmhouses in the area are to be demolished.

A statement issued by the District Malir deputy commissioner’s office said that the operation was held on the orders of DC Gahanwer Ali Laghari in the Shah Mureed and Murad Memon sub-divisions with the coordination of the Anti-Encroachment Force and the district police.

Shah Mureed Assistant Commissioner Ashraf Sangri and Murad Memon Goth AC Ghulam Farooq Soomro supervised the operation. The Gadap Town AC said that their target was to demolish some 30 farmhouses on Saturday, as the 30-year lease for plots on which the farmhouses had been constructed had ended.

He said that they were not aware of the owners of the farmhouses, and that all they knew was that they were constructed illegally. He also said that notices had been served on the owners of the farmhouses but they had refused to receive them.

The SBCA’s anti-encroachment team said that the operation was being conducted against the Palm Village and Country Club farmhouses. They said that the operation was being carried out on the directions of the court, adding that it was supposed to continue until Monday.

However, the operation was stopped after the residents attacked the police and the anti-encroachment team. The protesters also blocked the Super Highway near the Toll Plaza, causing traffic congestion on both the tracks for hours.

A group of men also pelted the SBCA’s heavy machinery with stones. The district administration had started the operation to demolished all illegally constructed farmhouses in the locality.

‘Out of the bag’

Addressing the media outside the PA, Sheikh said that the “corrupt” Government of Sindh has started demolishing “legal” structures of PTI leaders in Malir to silence the voice of the opposition.

He said that they will not tolerate any “pressure”, and that they will continue to “expose the corruption mafia of Sindh inside and outside the assembly”.

Flanked by the PTI’s Firdous Shamim Naqvi, Khurrum Sher Zaman and parliamentary party leader Bilal Ghaffar, Sheikh said that now the cat had been let out of the bag.

He explained that when they started exposing the “corruption of PPP leaders, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah started demolishing the farmhouses of PTI leaders in District Malir at the behest of PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari”.

He said that on a public holiday, action was taken even on the “legal lands of the relatives of my relatives”. He added that his own poultry farm spread over four acres was affected by the operation, “despite the fact that we have already applied for a 99-year lease”.

Sheikh said that a stay order against the anti-encroachment operation had been already obtained from the court for the demolished farmhouses. He pointed out that the action was taken on Saturday because the courts remained closed on Sundays. He said that they have proper documents and other relevant papers regarding the farmhouses of his brother Azeem Adil Sheikh and his cousin Tariq Qureshi.

He appealed to the Supreme Court and the Sindh High Court to set up a judicial commission on land grabbing in the province. He claimed that the CM and the LG minister are involved in the illegal distribution of land among their blue-eyed boys.

He also claimed that around 5,000 acres have been encroached in Jamshoro, Malir and Thatta, while the CM is involved in the mega corruption scandals of sugar mills, the Roshan Pakistan and the Omni Group.

Naqvi asked why the action was taken despite the stay order. He said that if the farmhouses were illegal, why the government allowed their construction in the first place. He also accused the anti-encroachment teams of having looted valuable items from the farmhouses.

‘No politics’

Sindh government spokesman Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that anti-encroachment operations have been under way across Karachi, including in District Malir, clarifying that they are not directed towards any politician but are against the mafia involved in land grabbing.

Wahab, who is also the CM’s adviser on law, was talking to the media during his visit to the under-construction Kidney Hill Park. He advised Sheikh to appreciate the ongoing drive to free the city’s lands from illegal occupation instead of getting angry.

“Has the action been taken against Haleem Adil Shaikh? Instead, the action has been taken against those whose lease [of land] has been cancelled, as the process to vacate government land is under way.”

He said that the same opposition party had praised a similar anti-encroachment drive in Punjab, but accusations had been hurled in the case of Sindh.

He advised that such double standards should be avoided because they imply that the anti-encroachment drive in the case of Lahore is right but it is wrong to conduct a similar campaign in Karachi. He warned that legal action will be taken against anyone who impedes the anti-encroachment drive.

Wahab claimed that the Malir property in question had not been declared by Sheikh before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). He said that they will approach the ECP if the claim that the land belonged to the PTI leader turned out to be true.

He said that the anti-encroachment drive was not directed towards any single person. He clarified that the land in question had been provided to set up poultry farm, but their lease had been cancelled in 2015.

“If action can be taken against encroachments on Kidney Hill, then why can’t the same drive be conducted in Gadap?” he said. He also clarified that no political party was affiliated with any group involved in land grabbing, since individuals, not political parties, were wrong.

The adviser said that legal action should be taken against all the people who were in the wrong, without giving any consideration to their political affiliation.

He recalled that a year had passed since starting the revival efforts for the Kidney Hall Park and launching the action against encroachments on its land.

He said that trash used to litter the park but now 110,000 saplings were planted there to develop it. He pointed out that the Kidney Hall Park’s development would pave the way for developing an urban forest in the midst of the city.

The spokesman said that a similar tree planting drive had been launched near the coastal strip of Clifton. He informed the media that another campaign would be launched on February 15 to plant trees along the main highways.

He said that the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and all of the district municipal corporations had been helping the provincial government for improving the environment of the city.

‘Land for farming’

Labour Minister Saeed Ghani said that thousands of acres in District Malir had been provided on a 30-year lease for agricultural purposes or poultry farming, but the use of those lands for constructing farmhouses, housing projects or residential units was illegal.

Addressing a news conference, Ghani said that the Board of Revenue was empowered to take action against any illegal activity being carried out on such a piece of land even if its lease was valid.

He said that Sheikh was under an obligation to explain how the construction of a farmhouse on such a piece of land in the Malir district was legal.

He also said that it was wrong to assume that an anti-encroachment operation had been launched against only two particular farmhouses in the district. “The fact is that action has been under way against thousands of acres of such land in two Dehs of District Malir.”

The minister said that action has been under way against such pieces of land in the district whose 30-year lease had expired or those being used for any other purpose than the one for which it had been originally allotted.

He said that the Supreme Court had issued unequivocal directives against such lands. “In fact, the chief justice of Pakistan himself had summoned the deputy commissioners of all the districts to issue the directives.”

He also said that it was ridiculous to claim that the action was being taken for political victimisation. He claimed that the government’s record showed that the land against which the action had been taken was not owned by Sheikh or any other PTI leader.

Ghani echoed Wahab’s point that the relevant political quarters who had earlier praised the anti-encroachment drive in Lahore had attempted to turn a similar action in Karachi controversial by terming it an act of political vengeance.

He claimed that the action had been under way from July 2020 to January 2021 to vacate 1,200 acres of government land in District Malir. “So, it is baseless to give the impression that a fresh drive has been launched since Haleem Adil Sheikh has become the opposition leader.”

He said that the Sindh government will continue taking action against all the elements involved in extorting millions of rupees from the people of Karachi through the construction of housing projects or by carrying out other illegal activities on such pieces of land that were provided on a 30-year lease.

Replying to a question, he said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had sought details of the investigation conducted by Sindh’s Anti-Corruption Establishment into 400 acres of government land allegedly occupied by Sheikh. Ghani said that he did not know if NAB would take further action in the case.