KARACHI: The SC order on Nasla Tower has set off fireworks and a storm of strong emotional reactions on the social and political scene.
The Chairperson of Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD), Mohsin Sheikhani, has threatened that the real estate developers will stop all their construction projects till the demolition of Nasla Tower and other buildings, which were constructed lawfully or after obtaining all NOCs, are not stopped. The Sindh Information and Labour Minister, Saeed Ghani, on the other hand, has demanded a commission under a judge of the Supreme Court to determine the fate of thousands of unauthorised residential buildings in Sindh.
Sheikhani was addressing a press conference on Saturday alongside ABAD Senior Vice Chairman Muhammad Hanif Memon, Vice Chairman Altaf Kantawala, Chairman Southern Region Sufyan Adhia, Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan’s (MQM-P) Amir Khan, Faisal Sabzwari, Wasim Akhtar and chairperson of Sailani Welfare Trust Maulana Bashir Farooqi, head of MQM Rehabilitation Movement Dr Farooq Sattar, President Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Idrees Memon and President, FPCCI, Nasir Hayat Maggo.
Mohsin Sheikhani said that those who paid billions of rupees in taxes to Pakistan's revenue were being treated as if they were terrorists. He said while the construction sector in Karachi was in decline for decades, the construction projects in Punjab were approved in a matter of hours. He said that member builders and developers of Abad construct buildings after obtaining NOCs with the approval from all governmental departments. “The builders and developers are being economically destroyed by demolishing buildings after being declared illegal,” he said, adding that Abad has held dozens of press conferences informing the authorities about these illegal constructions but neither action was taken against land grabbing in Karachi nor against the buildings constructed without NOCs.
Shaikhani claimed that only the builders and developers who are the lifeline of Pakistan's economy are being targeted. He said that until the demolition of Nasla Tower and other buildings, which have been constructed lawfully or after obtaining all NOCs, is not stopped, the member builders and developers of Abad will stop all their construction projects. As of now, he said that work on hundreds of projects have been stopped and investment of trillions of rupees has come to a standstill while millions of people are feared to be unemployed.
Holding the federal and provincial governments responsible for this, he said it was tragic that due to the extraordinary delay in approval of construction projects, the builders and developers of Karachi could not register any new project with the FBR under the amnesty granted to the construction sector by the PM, but the illegal builders are continuing with their illegal projects. He warned the federal and provincial governments that if the demolition of buildings in Karachi was not stopped, they would be responsible for damage to Pakistan's economy.
On this occasion, the President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Idrees Memon said that the construction sector in Karachi was being destroyed under a conspiracy. He said the government asked us to bring foreign investment in Pakistan. "How will the foreign investors invest in Pakistan when the local investors are being destroyed?" He warned the federal and provincial governments that builders and developers have announced closure of their businesses and if demolition of buildings was not stopped, then all business community of Karachi will close their businesses and come to the streets.
The FPCCI President, Nasir Hayat, said that as illegal constructions in Punjab were regularized by amnesty like those on the Constitution Avenue in Islamabad, the same should happen in Sindh. He lambasted the law enforcement agencies for baton charging and shelling the protesters outside the Nasla Tower.
MQM-P's Faisal Sabzwari said it was not fair to evict the people who were living on Gujjar Nullah for decades without providing alternative accommodation. Seeking apologies from the Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed for raising a contentious issue, Sabzwari said it is a fact that the parking of the Supreme Court Registry exists on a drain. “Will it also be demolished?” he asked. On this occasion, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Khurram Sher Zaman also strongly condemned the police baton charge and shelling on builders and developers who paid billions of rupees in taxes.
Meanwhile, Sindh Information and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani demanded the constitution of a commission under a judge of the Supreme Court to determine the fate of thousands of unauthorised residential buildings in the province.
According to a statement issued, the information minister has proposed the constitution of a commission to decide whether a penalty should be imposed for regularisation of unauthorised buildings or they should be razed. He said the Nasla Tower could be demolished but one should bear in mind that its residents were not at fault as the wrongdoing was committed either by the builder or the Sindh Building Control Authority. Rendering people homeless would cause human tragedy, he remarked and added that he might sacrifice his own ministerial job for resisting any move to render people homeless in Sindh. He said the government fully honoured the judgments given by the courts as it was their duty to implement the court orders but at the same time they should have the right to say whether those judgments were right or wrong.
Later on Saturday evening, the Sindh information minister went to the Association of Builders and Developers of Pakistan (ABAD) House in Karachi. Speaking on the occasion, ABAD Chairman Mohsin Sheikhani expressed gratitude to Ghani for speaking in favour of the builders in the province. The ABAD chairman and office-bearers informed the information minister about the manhandling they had to undergo the other day when they resorted to protest near the Nasla Tower. Sheikhani said members of the builders’ fraternity were purely business people and many honourable members of the construction industry were among the top 30 taxpayers in the country.
Ghani said a sorrowful incident had taken place the previous day and the provincial government would order an inquiry into it. He added that Sindh and Pakistan were bound to progress with the promotion and advancement of the construction industry. He said that he was under an obligation to raise his voice on behalf of the people, being one of their elected representatives in Sindh.
Earlier, commenting on the wheat shortage issue, Ghani said Punjab accounted for most of the wheat production in the country, hence, the Sindh government should not be blamed for any countrywide wheat shortage. He added that wheat cultivated in Sindh was barely enough to meet the flour requirements of the people of the province.
The information minister alleged that several sugar mills in Punjab were owned by influential people close to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and they should be held responsible for the sugar crisis in the country because Punjab produced sugar in quantity double to Sindh. He maintained that the Sindh government should not be blamed for the increase in the price of dollar, petrol, medicines, sugar, and wheat flour in the country.
Ghani appealed to the federal government and other industry stakeholders in the province to increase the minimum monthly wage of labourers to Rs25,000 as decided by the provincial government. He said the Sindh government might have to further increase the minimum wage of the labourers in the province next year, keeping in view the fast increase in inflation in the country.
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