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— File Photo

KARACHI: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has conceded that neither the Constitution nor the Delimitation of Constituencies Act 1974 is a hurdle in delimitation of constituencies in Karachi.

The admission is contained in the Nov 26 interim order of a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on the Karachi law and order case released to the media on Tuesday.

It said the ECP director general had “candidly conceded that neither Article 51 (5) of the Constitution nor Section 7 (2) of the Delimitation of Constituencies Act 1974 is a hurdle” to compliance with observations made by the apex court in its judgment in the Watan Party case.

The wording of the interim order is being described as a setback for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which has objected strongly to any suggestion of fresh delimitation in Karachi. In a recent public statement, MQM chief Altaf Hussain hit out at the Supreme Court and said there was no justification for singling out Karachi for fresh delimitation, especially without prior census.

According to the 10-page interim order, the ECP director general informed the court that the task of delimitation of different constituencies had been taken up by the commission with the provincial government.

He assured the court that delimitation of constituencies would be carried out in letter and spirit within the shortest possible time after taking on board all stakeholders.

The order said the Sindh chief secretary had also assured of his full cooperation to the ECP. “The chief secretary has also brought to our notice that boundaries of certain police station in Karachi as administrative units have already been reconstituted, while the concerned district coordination officers/deputy commissioners have informed him that except in District West, no reconstitution of revenue estate boundaries is required,” it said.

The bench directed the chief secretary to place on record all material regarding the delimitation of constituencies “so that stance of the government of Sindh in this regard may be carefully examined”.

The court rejected the explanation of the Board of Revenue’s senior member justifying the delay in reconstruction of the revenue record of different districts of the province. It also rejected the member’s claim that 72 per cent of the record had been reconstructed.

“However, no details of districts and/or Dehs (villages) have been given in the explanation, which, ex-facie, is evasive,” it added.

The bench observed it had noticed that the revenue department, on the one hand, deliberately avoided reconstructing the record after it was claimed to have been burnt following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and, on the other, it allowed allotments, conversions and mutations of government lands without verifying actual ownership.

“Thus, prima facie, the state land is being encroached upon and/or being allotted without following the provisions of the Land Revenue Act.”

RECONSTRUCTION OF RECORD: The bench also noted that the revenue record, under the law, was required to be reconstructed within three years, but nothing had been done despite a lapse of more than five years.

It observed that the Board of Revenue had allowed transactions relating to transfer of state land while abusing its authority in the face of court’s directions, “which, prime facie, must have caused huge financial losses to the exchequer” and “encouraged the menace of land grabbing, one of the basic causes of the poor law and order situation”.

The court directed the deputy commissioners and DCOs to ensure that the entire revenue record of all districts was kept in custody of mukhtiarkars.

The chief secretary has been asked to furnish an up-to-date list of all entries kept in the record of property rights after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

The court said it would examine the list of entries and, if necessary, it could be referred to the National Accountability Bureau for inquiry in order to ascertain whether the government suffered losses and revenue officials misused their authority while passing orders on these transactions.

The bench is headed by Justice Anwer Zaheer Jamali.

The court directed the chief secretary to ensure that the process of reconstruction of revenue record was completed within three months in terms of directives issued by the Singh High Court.

The chief secretary is also required to place on record the list of persons and details of the lands converted from 30 years to 99 years lease in the province after Ms Bhutto’s assassination.

The court adjourned the hearing with a directive to its office to place the case before the Chief Justice of Pakistan for orders about fixing it for the next hearing.

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