KARACHI: Over one dozen protesters were released after a brief detention following a clash between the police and shopkeepers during the anti-encroachment drive at the Aladin’s shopping mall on the directives of the apex court.
As the heavy machinery reached the Aladin shopping mall at Rashid Minhas Road for the anti-encroachment operation, the protesters gathered to protest against demolition of shops. Police said that the protesters turned violent during the protest and also attacked the police by pelting stones, injuring some policemen. The police in their defence, resorted to aerial firing and baton-charged the protesters. The clash led to a major traffic jam on the Rashid Minhas Road. This followed detention of over a dozen violent protesters. “We had detained 15 to 18 protesters but released all of them,” District East SSP Sajid Saduzai told The News. “The operation was halted but it will resume today (Wednesday) again.”
An anti-encroachment drive ordered by the Supreme Court is underway in various parts of the city. The major drive was launched on Tuesday at the Pavilion End Club and a shopping mall constructed at the Aladin as well as the Hill Park area. “The Hill Park drive is too sensitive because there is a Masjid but we are trying our level best not to hurt the religious sentiments and taking the drive calmly,” the officer explained.
Meanwhile, on the watch of three political parties, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Jamaat-e-Islami, the Aladin Shopping Mall and Pavilion End Club continued to function without any hindrance over the amenity plot at the main Rashid Minhas Road.
On Monday, May 14, the Supreme Court termed the mall and the club illegal and ordered the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to demolish them in two days. When the teams of KMC’s anti-encroachment department reached the park, the shopkeepers of the malls and staff of the club protested at the main Rashid Minhas Road.
The shopkeepers demanded to take those to task who allowed the establishment and business of the shopping mall and club inside the premises of the amusement park to continue illegally, instead of depriving them of their livelihood.
The News investigated how the illegality was allowed by the KMC mayors and the provincial governments and the management of the park. An agreement, according to KMC’s Director Culture, Sports and Recreation Saif Abbas was signed between AA Joy Land Private Limited and KMC on May 30, 1995 for a period of 25 years, when KMC’s administrator was Fahim Zaman. According to the agreement, the 52 acres land of Safari Park area facing Rashid Minhas Road was leased for the development of amusement park on the pattern of Disney Land.
Abbas explained how according to the agreement the AA Joy Land Private Limited was allowed to conduct five-percent commercial activities. Later, the agreement was revised and sublease of certain portion of the land was allowed for 25 years.
One of the retired officials of KMC confirmed to The News that the agreement was revised twice during the tenure of JI’s mayor late Naimatullah Khan from 2001 to 2005. A sublease of shops was allowed, besides the Pavilion End Club was allowed to be established against the original master plan of the amusement park submitted to the KMC in the year 1995. Talking to a private news channel on Tuesday night, Zaman stressed how the agreement was revised under the JI’s watch.
According to the agreement not more than 34 percent area shall be covered under building structures and rest 65-percent has to be kept open. “Not more than five-percent of the total area shall be under commercial purposes like gift shops, snack bars, etc. This five-percent is included in the 34 percent covered area,” the agreement said. The copy of the agreement also clearly mentions that the corporation has the right to suggest changes, amendments in the plan of the amusement park.
Talking to The News, advocate Zubair Ahmed shared how the KMC cannot allow the establishment of clubs and shopping malls on amenity plots and there could never be any sublease in this regard. Sharing the document of sublease, one of the shopkeepers of the mall, Muhammad Iqbal said he signed the sublease in the registrar office and paid Rs2.5 million to AA Joy Land Private Limited. “If the sublease was illegal, then those who let it happen must be penalised,” he said.
Aladin Shopping Mall Welfare Association’s president Muhammad Javed lamented how they were never heard before in the apex court. “The shopkeepers took possession of the shops from 1998 onwards,” he said, adding that they are doing their business for 25 years. “Out of nowhere we were asked to vacate our shops. Where will we go now?” he asked.
It is pertinent to mention here that after 1995, MQM’s Waseem Akhtar remained minister of local government in the year 1997. The JI’s late Naimatullah Khan severed as mayor from 2001 to 2005 and renewed the agreement. Then MQM’s mayor and now Pak Sarzameen Party’s chief Mustafa Kamal remained mayor of the city for five years. Akhtar then again became the mayor of the city in 2016. The PPP has been in power in the province since 2009. But none took action against the commercial activities in the 54-acre amenity plot reserved for park, in fact, they strengthened it. When The News tried to reach Kamal and Akhtar for their comments, both did not respond to the repeated phone calls by The News. However, PSP’s spokesperson, Asia Ishaq, sought NAB’s inquiry into the violation of rules related to amenity plot. She said the shopkeepers must not suffer, but those who executed the sublease to them. When asked why Kamal didn’t cancel the agreement, she said that all allegations against her party chief were false.
Hundreds of members of the club and more than 1,200 staff members staged a protest outside the Pavilion End Club on Tuesday. Recording her protest, actress Sarwat Gilani said that “there is no club or amusement park in Pakistan which is providing international level entertainment activities to its members for only Rs50 per day. The Pavilion End Club is providing affordable entertainment to the middle class and lower middle class alike, but we are being deprived of this right, we are being intimidated.”
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