ISLAMABAD, Sept 4: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has left the city’s prime commercial market, Karachi Company, at the mercy of street vendors who have encroached upon footpaths and blocked the smooth flow of traffic and customers.
On the other hand, the civic authority, through a number of press releases and handouts, claims to have cleared the city from encroachment.
The authority claimed that its enforcement division had started an operation in July to remove illegal encroachments.
However, customers at the Markaz had a different view.
“You just can’t move on footpaths because of these stalls which are placed on footpaths,” maintained Ghausia Mufti, a housewife.
“I don’t know how to enter the market since there is a very small passage to move. The whole market is giving a look of Moti Bazaar,” she added, referring to the market in Rawalpindi which was very congested.
A visit to Karachi Company shows that almost every footpath of the commercial market has been taken over by vendors.
They have erected makeshift stalls on footpaths and are selling shoes, clothes, ready made garments and even grocery items.
But according to local traders, the stalls are not illegal.
Mumtaz Ahmed, a local trader who runs a leather business in Karachi Company, claimed, “We have approval from the civic authority and this is not encroachment at all.”
He insisted, “All the vendors are paying a fee to the authority for running their business on the limited space of footpaths.”
Ahmed said poor vendors also paid a small amount in rent to the shopkeepers who had allowed them to run their businesses in front of shops.
“I have allowed a cloth merchant to run his stall in front of my shop and charge him Rs10,000 a month, which is a reasonable rent,” he added.
On the other hand, Rehman Abbasi, a high court lawyer, while talking to Dawn said, “The encroachment made upon footpaths by shopkeepers is against the constitutional right of the people.”
He explained that in it was the constitutional right of people to have “freedom of movement.” Article 15 of the constitution clearly stated, “Every citizen shall have the right to remain in and enter and move freely throughout Pakistan.”
In the same context, he said it was against the law if public movement was restricted by such encroachments.
He added that it was unlawful trade if vendors did business without any license from the CDA.
Mr Abbasi informed Dawn that the Supreme Court in January 2011 had directed the authority to clear all encroachments from the city and vacate state land from illegal possession.
“CDA had to act on the orders of the apex court since any negligence on its part could land the officials in trouble,” the high court lawyer said.
He maintained that it was the duty of the authority’s chairman, Nadeem Hasan Asif, to ensure appropriate action against illegal encroachments which could be seen in Karachi Company and even in Blue Area.
However, when approached, an official of the CDA’s media department said, “We have managed to initiate a massive operation against illegal encroachment at a number of places across the city and successfully cleared land from illegal encroachments.”
The official informed Dawn that they were able to clear land from illegal encroachers who were running kiosks along the Faizabad flyover which had now been cleared of all encroachments.
The official assured action would be taken within a week if large scale encroachment was found. However, he said the authority had not received any complaints from the public regarding illegal encroachments in Karachi Company.