KARACHI, Sept 4: The Karachi Port Trust forcibly stopped development work being carried out by the city government at the Boat Basin park on Tuesday morning, claiming that the land belonged to the trust and the latter had no right to renovate the park.
There was a strong possibility of a clash between the two bodies when hundreds of city government staff, backed by armed private security guards and heavy machinery, reached the park to resume the development work.
However, amid a charged environment the CDGK staff continued working till 5pm and the KPT people left the venue after the arrival of police.
Well-placed sources told Dawn that the matter between the KPT and the CDGK was likely to be settled in a day or two as both parties had agreed to turn to Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad upon his return from Islamabad.
Whose park is it anyway?
Spread over an area of 240 acres (40 acres dry area and basin on 200 acres), the Boat Basin park was constructed by the defunct Karachi Development Authority (KDA) some 40 years ago. Later, the KDA handed over control of the park to the defunct Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and after the introduction of devolution of power the park was placed under the control of the city district government Karachi.
However, KPT sources rejected the notion that the park was still owned by the CDGK and said that the KDA acquired land to construct the park from the trust but afterwards, the KPT retook control of the park.
The executive director officer of the city government’s parks and horticulture department, Liaquat Ali, told Dawn that the city government decided to renovate the park on the pattern of Bagh Ibne Qasim and Beach Park in order to provide more recreational facilities to the people of Karachi.
He said three days ago the city government started work and managed to remove encroachments from 20 acres of dry area of the park.
“But last night the KPT deployed its armed staff at the site and when our people reached there on Tuesday morning, they forcibly stopped them from working,” he added.The KPT people claimed that the Boat Basin Park was owned by the trust and the CDGK was illegally renovating the park.
Mr Ali said when he reached the park, under his supervision the city government staff started work again. However, after one hour some 150 armed KPT men, including serving military officials, reached the spot to stop the work again.
“I requested them not to hinder the development work unlawfully and if they have any issues, they should communicate them to the CDGK high-ups,” he said.
Witnesses said that both parties pointed guns at each other and exchanged minatory words. However, an imminent clash was averted after the arrival of a heavy contingent of police who controlled the worsening situation. The KPT men remained there till 5pm but did not hinder the work being carried out by the city government.
CDGK sources alleged that the KPT was occupying the Boat Basin Park illegally owing to its commercial interest.
However, the KPT sources insisted that they had no commercial interest and it was their old plan to renovate the park.
‘CDGK can build some other park’
“The city government can utilise its funds in some other project as the KPT is ready to invest money to turn the Boat Basin park into a model project for the people of Karachi,” said a source requesting anonymity.
The KPT’s general manager, Administration, Brig Shahid Saleem, told Dawn that the incident took place in the area of Chinna Creek, which fell in the territorial area of the KPT.
“The place was being used as a dumping ground and today the city government people came here with dumpers and loaders and started encroaching on the land without giving any prior information to the KPT. When we stopped them they alleged that we were hindering them from developing a park. Some of them were carrying weapons and therefore we moved personnel of the Port Security Force to avert any untoward incident. At 5pm it was decided that the city government would use the official channel,” he added.
He made it clear that the entire Boat Basin park is also owned by the KPT.
“The KPT gave this land to the KDA but later cancelled the allotment as the KDA defaulted.”