KARACHI: Once a safe haven for encroachers and land grabbers, the vicinity of Saddar wore a different look on Tuesday as the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation claimed it had removed all unauthorised cabins, shops, stalls and sugar-cane juice machines in one of the most congested commercial areas of the city on the second day of its anti-encroachment operation.
According to KMC officials, the operation launched jointly by the KMC’s anti-encroachment department and city administration on the directive of the Supreme Court would continue till the removal of all encroachments in Saddar.
The apex court had ordered the authorities concerned to make Saddar an “encroachment-free” zone before the action was initiated across the city.
All illegal structures around iconic Empress Market removed, claims KMC
Metropolitan Commissioner Dr Syed Saif-ur-Rehman monitored the operation, whereas officials of the KMC’s anti-encroachment department, district administration, Rangers, police, Cantonment Board Karachi, Sindh Solid Waste Management Board, gas and power utilities were also present.
While the authorities cleared almost all footpaths and pavements of encroachments, pedestrians were still facing problems as several motorcycles, believed to be belonging to shopkeepers and their employees, were seen parked on the walkways meant for people.
Besides, the anti-encroachment staff did not make any effort to remove the “parking and car washing mafia” from nearby Shahrah-i-Liaquat, where traffic jams had become a routine feature.
KMC officials said that clearing the streets from parking and car washing mafia was not their mandate.
They said that a major portion of the road housing the Passport Office, FIA offices and Election Commission of Pakistan was illegally occupied by car washers, who were running their illegal business in active connivance with the district and traffic police.
However, the metropolitan commissioner said that the orders of the Supreme Court for clearing encroachments would be implemented in letter and spirit with the assistance of the law enforcement agencies.
He said that the second phase of the operation was also completed and work on the third phase would also be continued.
He said that all encroachments around Empress Market had been removed. “This iconic British-era market is our heritage and we will restore it to its original shape,” he said.
The metropolitan commissioner said that footpaths were meant for use of pedestrians and no encroachments would be allowed there.
He said this operation was being carried out on the orders of the apex court and would continue till the removal of all encroachments in this area. Various monitoring teams were also formed to oversee the area and stop any encroachments established again, he added.
Mayor calls for protecting heritage buildings
Mayor Wasim Akhtar stressed the need for making strict laws for preservation of heritage buildings in Karachi to save these from demolition.
“The provincial and federal governments have this responsibility to avert decaying of old structures of historical importance. Such gems of Karachi have to be protected for our future generations,” he said.
The mayor expressed these views while speaking as chief guest in the inaugural session of a seminar ‘Architectural Gems of Karachi’ organised by the KMC’s culture and sports department at the Khaliqdina Hall in coordination with the NED University of Engineering and Technology on Tuesday.
Sindh Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Secretary Ghulam Akbar Leghari, former secretary and member advisory committee on heritage Dr Kaleemullah Lashari, chairperson of the NED University’s architecture and planning department Prof Dr Anila Naeem, Assistant Prof Saeeduddin, chairman of the finance committee Nadeem Hidayat Hashmi, culture and sports director Rehan Khan and other officers were also present.
The mayor said that Rs20 million was earmarked in the current budget for restoration of Khaliqdina Hall to its original shape whereas other historic buildings owned by the KMC were also being restored.
He appreciated the seminar and said such informative events would prove beneficial especially for the young generations and our students, who have to protect our heritage in future.
“It is unfortunate that we always treated our heritage badly whereas in developed countries they ensure full preservation of heritage buildings,” he said.
He assured full cooperation to the organisers of the seminar and said such seminars need to be held on a regular basis.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Leghari said some mafias were up against the heritage in Karachi and wanted to demolish these structures for their own commercial benefits.
He said heritage belonged not only to a certain department or organisation but “to all of us and as a citizen of Karachi we have to play our role for its preservation”.
Prof Anila Naeem thanked the mayor for the seminar and said that this would pave the way for a long-term cooperation in the preservation of historic buildings of the KMC.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2018