The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Sindh leaders on Thursday rejected the proposed Sindh Commission for Regularisation of Construction Ordinance, terming it an attempt to legalise land grabbing and forgeries of the Pakistan Peoples Party’s Sindh government during its 14-year tenure.
Addressing a press conference at the Sindh Assembly building, PTI MPA Haleem Adil Sheikh, who is also the leader of the opposition in the assembly, claimed that around hundreds of thousands of acres of state land was under illegal occupation across the province and the PPP government intended to legalise all the encroachments and counterfeit documentation on the pretext of the humanitarian crisis that emerged after the Nasla Tower and Gujjar nullah demolitions.
“If the ordinance was aimed at compensating affected families of the Nasla Tower, Gujjar or Orangi nullahs and people living in Katchi Abadis (irregular settlements), it must be specified in the draft ordinance,” said Sheikh, who is also the PTI’s central vice-president. “Ill-intentions of the Sindh government were apparent from terms of the composition of the proposed commission that would be headed by a retired judge and might include Murtaza Wahab and representative of the Association of Builders and Developers [ABAD].”
The PTI leader suggested that all the stakeholders and parliamentary parties be taken into confidence on the legislation according to democratic norms and the proposed commission be notified by the chief justice of Pakistan after detailed consultation with the opposition.
The commission must be chaired by any sitting judge of the Supreme Court as the case of illegal construction and land grabbing in Sindh was being heard by the apex court, Sheikh said.
“If the reservations of the opposition are not removed, the PTI will challenge the ordinance in higher courts as the draft ordinance was manifest to bring the Sindh Assembly, political system, executive and governor Sindh in confrontation with judiciary,” he remarked.
Sheikh also termed the Sindh Local Government Amendment Bill 2021 a clear violation of the constitution of Pakistan and spirit of devolution of powers to the grassroots level and announced that the party would challenge the bill in higher courts.
He said that the articles 7, 8, 32, and 140-A called for empowerment of local government institutions and transferring education, health, civic services, and other basic functions and responsibilities to the third tier of governance but on the contrary, the bill aimed at depriving the local governments of all their basic functions and responsibilities, constraining them only to the management of public toilets.
The PTI leader remarked that if enacted, the bill would bring primary health care facilities, including the Sobhraj and Abbasi Shaheed hospitals, Leprosy Centre, Sarfraz Rafiqui Centre, Karachi Medical and Dental College, infectious disease department and many educational institutions under the control of the provincial government.
A day earlier on Wednesday, Barrister Murtaza Wahab, the Sindh government spokesperson and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation administrator, had addressed a press conference in which he announced that the Sindh government had decided to set up a
commission on the ongoing demolitions, and stop anti-encroachment operations across the province for the time being.
“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 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.
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