Thursday January 20, 2022

Commission to be set up to decide about buildings not to be razed

Anti-encroachment operations will be temporarily suspended from Karachi to Kashmore, says Murtaza Wahab

December 02, 2021
Nasla Tower. File photo
Nasla Tower. File photo

The Sindh government has decided to set up a commission on the ongoing demolitions, and stop anti-encroachment operations across the province for the time being, said Barrister Murtaza Wahab on Wednesday.

Wahab — who is the Karachi administrator, the Sindh government’s spokesman and the chief minister’s law adviser — was addressing a news conference in the provincial assembly’s committee room.

“Anti-encroachment operations will be temporarily suspended from Karachi to Kashmore. The Sindh government has prepared an ordinance to stop the operations. A commission will be set up under the ordinance to determine which non-commercial structures must not be demolished,” he said.

He also said that those who are issuing threats should understand that this is not the Karachi of the 1990s or the city on May 12, 2007. “Karachi is free, and politics of separatism must end.”

Condemning the murder of the Sindh Bar Council’s Irfan Ali Mahar, he said the accused would be arrested soon, adding that the CM had talked to police high-ups and held a meeting on law and order immediately after the incident.

Wahab said the CM had taken all the details from the Karachi police chief, adding that whoever was behind the murder would be arrested and brought to book. He pointed out that the Sindh government has said more than once that it is the duty of the government to protect the lives and properties of the citizens, which is why laws are being formulated.

Unfortunately, he said, commercialisation has taken place in the last several years, adding that it started during the time when Naimatullah Khan was the city’s Nazim. “When the citizens approached the courts against it [commercialisation], it was decided [by the court] that it is the prerogative of the city government.”

The areas commercialised earlier are creating problems today, with ordinary citizens bearing the brunt of it, he added. Underground utilities were not laid during commercialisation, he pointed out.

“This problem has spread all over Pakistan. Societies have been formed on agricultural land in Islamabad,” he said, adding that people raise a hue and cry that the Nasla Tower is being demolished but no action was taken against Bani Gala in Islamabad.

Wahab said the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) passed a PA resolution on the anti-encroachment drive, urging for legislation to alleviate the miseries of the citizens. He added that those who had held news conferences on the Nasla Tower issue “escaped” from the House.

He said the PPP had drafted the ordinance and sent it to the governor. “The Sindh governor will approve the draft of the ordinance,” he hoped, and said the ordinance was formulated purely in the interest of the citizens.

He also said the law is the same in Sindh as it is in Punjab, but only a paragraph was added that the anti-encroachment drive should be stopped immediately until the commission to be formed under the ordinance reaches a decision.

He further said a retired judge would head the commission and decide whether or not to regularise a construction. The administrator said they would also get the ordinance passed by the PA.

Replying to a question, he said the Sindh government had not allotted the land for the Nasla Tower, as the Sindhi Muslim Society was not under its administrative control. “This property was commercialised in 2007, when Mustafa Kamal was the city’s mayor.”

He also said that after commercialisation, the building control authority permitted its construction. The land actually belongs to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, and the court had ruled in 2000 to hand it over to the Sindhi Muslim Society in exchange for money.

Responding to another query, Wahab said Pak Sarzameen Party chief Kamal wanted him to say something so that he could reply. “This is not the Karachi of the 1990s. This is not the Karachi of May 12.”

He also asked Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui to stop their politics of “segregation”. “The MQM-P has been the federal government’s coalition partner for three and a half years. What has Prime Minister Imran Khan done for this city? He didn’t even listen to your census demand.”