“[I] feel like crying when I see Karachi…it seems that when the situation goes beyond the limits of peoples’ endurance, there will be great discord here”
PKONWEB Report – The country’s top court on Thursday took exception to two developments related to encroachments in Karachi port-city.
The court in January had issued a set of directives to authorities regarding the demolishing of illegal constructions, restoration of the metropolis to its 40-year-old state, and for razing buildings that are in violation of the original master plan.
Karachi is projected to become the world’s third most populated city by 2030
One exception the apex court took was Defense Housing Authority’s handing over of state land in the mega city to private entities, and ordered the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) to ensure implementation of its January directive ordering the city-wide demolition of illegal constructions.
The attorney general and secretary defense appeared before the bench and submitted a report on implementation to the court, which Justice Ahmed rejected, terming it “unsatisfactory” and “eyewash”.
“The defense ministry is not acting on court orders,” Justice Ahmed observed. “Should we shut down the Supreme Court? What is the purpose of the Supreme Court then?” he questioned. “Should it be shut?”
The population of Karachi, a megacity (10m or more population) is expected to grow by more than 30%, the second highest growth rate, between 2017 and 2030
The judge also expressed displeasure with Pakistan International Airlines, which had yet to raze a marriage hall that it was supposed to.
“We haven’t razed the marriage halls yet, but we have issued a notice for it,” an official told the court, to which the judge responded that the company should eliminate its illegal constructions and marriage halls today.
“You don’t know how to manage your airplanes, but you have now come to start building marriage halls,” the judge remarked.
For sustainable growth, Karachi must eliminate
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The other exception the Supreme Court bench took was on Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani and Karachi mayor statements they had issued against the anti-encroachment operation in Sindh.
“Where is the minister who said ‘we will not raze a single building’?” Justice Ahmed asked. “The mayor Karachi also says we will not demolish buildings. Has he decided to fight a war against the court?”
Ghani in his remarks had announced that he would not implement the court’s orders, asserting that he would prefer to quit the ministry but will not raze people’s buildings.
Justice Ahmed took notice of Saeed Ghani’s remarks and issued a contempt of court notice against him.
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“Let us listen to everyone. Then we will deliberate over what to do with them,” the judge told the courtroom. “The land mafia is flourishing in this city, and they are issuing such statements.”
Talking to the journalists following the issuance of a contempt of court notice the minister said, “I have not committed any contempt of court.”
“I still take ownership of my stance. Demolishing the residential buildings creates human tragedy,” Saeed Ghani said. “We respect court’s orders and it must be implemented. If the directions are given to demolish houses, “I will apologize and tender my resignation to the chief minister,” he added.
Hurdles to sustainable growth are far too many for the country’s economic powerhouse. Karachi will need to ensure access to public amenities, clean water supply, electricity, education, and jobs
He said he will accept the punishment given by the court on his stance. He elaborated that the people have not been provided alternative shops till now which was demolished earlier.
The judge also expressed his displeasure with the SBCA DG Qaimkhani, who he warned would go straight to jail from the court’s premises.
“We had ordered the complete removal of illegal encroachments and settlements from Karachi. What happened? Where has progress reached?” the court asked Qaimkhani. “What happened to the two illegal buildings in front of BBQ Tonight?” the court asked.
Supreme Court on Thursday once again directed the authorities concerned to restore the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) within a month
Qaimkhani responded that there is a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry ongoing against one of the buildings.
“What NAB? NAB who? Is NAB above the Supreme Court?” the court remarked.
The bench noted that the removal of illegal encroachments was a court order and should be followed.
“There are eight-storey buildings, often built in places like Punjab Colony and Delhi Colony, that have neither water lines nor a lift,” Justice Ahmed pointed out.
The court observed that the entire Saddar area, including Zainab Market, was full of unlawful parking areas.
SBCA DG Qaimkhani assured the court that it would conduct an operation in Saddar in the future.
“You haven’t done anything,” Justice Ahmed told Qaimkhani. “I go to Saddar every day, I can see the unlawful parking over there.”
The court questioned when the SBCA director general would “wake up” and conduct an operation in the area, and directed him to remove all illegal encroachments from the entire city.
“We had already passed an order on January 22 to remove all encroachments from the city,” the judge stated. “Why should we grant a further extension for implementation?”
“We will need to see how much time is necessary for implementation,” the attorney general interjected, but was quickly silenced by the judge.
“Attorney general sahab, please remain silent. Let us get done with the defense secretary first,” Justice Ahmed said.
He returned his attention to the defense secretary, and asked Ikramul Haq why he wanted more time for implementation of the court’s orders.
Haq told the judge that only two points in the court’s previous order had not been implemented.
“You don’t know anything because you remain in Islamabad,” Justice Ahmed remarked. “What would you know? You just remain in your comfort zone.”
“Over here [in Karachi], all the state’s land is in the control of private entities,” the judge added.
The Supreme Court also expressed displeasure over the digging up of University Road.
“It was carpeted one year ago. Why was it dug up again?” Justice Ahmed asked. “What is the problem with you people? Hundreds of thousands of citizens are being affected by this,” the judge pointed out.
“Karachi Electric is laying an underground cable,” the lawyer for municipal services told the court.
“Why did K-Electric not think of this before?” Justice Ahmed questioned.
“Who does the plaza next to Aladdin Park belong to, and on whose land is it being built? How many plazas are being built currently, and how many keep on being built?” asked Justice Ahmed, observing that the park was being used for commercial purposes.
“You did not stop them from getting rid of the drive-in cinema,” Justice Ahmed told the officials in court. “There will be such a massive plaza there now that you won’t even be able to breathe,” he said.
Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar told the court that when there had been a fire in a mall in Johar, the residents faced numerous difficulties. “I also face such difficulties,” the mayor said.
“That is why you have taken out a funeral procession for your politics,” the judge remarked
Justice Ahmed then turned to the DG KDA. “What have you turned Malir Road into?”
“You have sold the entire city. How much more money do you want?” he asked. “You’ve purchased properties in Dubai and London, but you can’t live there, eat the food there, or bring the weather from there here,” the judge said.
“Have you seen Tariq Road? All the garbage is being dumped there,” Justice Ahmed said. “No plaza parking area has been constructed there.”
“It takes three hours to leave the city,” the judge pointed out. “Karachi has not been able to reach the standard of a megacity,” he asserted. “The road system has been destroyed. From 1950 till now, all master plans for the city should be submitted to the court,” he directed.
The DG SBCA and the mayor both denied having any master plans in their possession.
The judge ordered that it must be specified which changes were made to the master plan and by whom, and which residential buildings were commercialized and when.
“[I] feel like crying when I see Karachi,” Justice Ahmed said. “It seems that when the situation goes beyond the limits of peoples’ endurance, there will be great discord here.”