KARACHI: The Sindh government on Monday informed the provincial legislature that it was intending to form a committee to compensate people deprived of their livelihood during the ongoing anti-encroachment operation in Saddar, launched on a Supreme Court order.
“Everyone here agrees that all sorts of encroachments should be removed,” said Saeed Ghani, provincial local government minister, while responding to a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf who, while supporting the operation, expressed his reservations over the removal of display boards on business establishments in the city’s crammed commercial area.
The minister said upon his inquiries about the small outdoor shops and stalls shopkeepers and traders told him that they had been paying rents to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation for decades.
“However, when I discussed this with Mayor Wasim Akhtar, he told me that the scheme had been scrapped before the launch of this operation in the light of the SC order.”
PTI member irked by tearing down of glasses and signboards
He said it would be pleasing when residents of the city would see the area of Saddar in its vintage form, which, he conceded, had got defaced “because of our own wrong deeds”.
“The Sindh government is considering establishing a committee to look into the issues caused by the sudden end of their sources of income. More than 1,000 shopkeepers have lost their livelihoods. We will devise a plan to compensate them; will try to help them in establishing some alternatives,” Mr Ghani said.
He said generally the operation was fair and successful. However, chances existed of missteps during the execution.
He said officials involved in the operation told him that they had removed only those shades which were larger than the approved specifications and the same was true in the case of signboards.
He said the provincial government would certainly tackle the issue of job loss caused by the operation.
He said illegally built houses were razed in Islamabad, but such an operation had not yet been launched in Sindh.
Mr Ghani invited the opposition to resolve issues jointly with the government if any excesses were committed during the operation.
However, the whole operation offered a teasing question as well.
“It is our responsibility to know who had been responsible for the mess created in Saddar and elsewhere over all those decades.”
Speaker Siraj Durrani asked if it was the government’s responsibility to compensate those affected by the operation.
Committee to propose alternative site
Meanwhile, the city administration on Monday decided to form a committee to propose an alternative site for the shopkeepers displaced during the anti-encroachment operation in and around Empress Market.
Sources said Commissioner Iftikhar Ali Shallwani formed the committee comprising the local government secretary, the metropolitan commissioner of the KMC and the deputy commissioner of South district. A note had been sent to the chief minister for his approval for the constitution of the committee.
The sources said that the decision to form the committee was taken after negotiations with the affected shopkeepers and their representatives.
PTI allegation of excesses
Earlier, PTI’s Khurram Sher Zaman said his party fully supported the operation in Saddar ordered by the SC, but during the course of action, the KMC teams had destroyed signboards and display materials on shops in Saddar and Arambagh Market.
“You should demolish the illegally built shades, but you should not tear down the glasses and signboards.”
He claimed the mayor had also conceded that the operation teams had made some mistakes.
Mohammad Hussain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, whose party holds the mayor’s office, said Saddar had been the victim of widespread encroachments for around half a century and the mayor was restoring its original shape with the strength he was given by the SC.
He said all the stakeholders, including the cantonment, city administration and law enforcement agencies, were on board in carrying out the operation.
He said no one questioned the operation’s neutrality for the first three days, but the PTI lawmaker, Mr Zaman, suddenly appeared before the media when signboards displayed on his restaurant were removed.
“That day he levelled accusations against Mayor Akhtar.”
He said the shades and neon signs which were built in violation of the approved specifications were being dismantled. He asked the PTI member to move court for his grievances.
Mr Zaman said he would certainly go to the Supreme Court.
Leader of the Opposition Firdous Shamim Naqvi reiterated that his party (PTI) was against all sorts of encroachments.
MQM-P’s Khwaja Izharul Hasan said past unelected administrations ruling the KMC had embezzled hundreds of millions of rupees at the cost of the city’s splendour.
Earlier, responding to a calling-attention notice by PTI’s Adeeba Hasan, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Chawla said the health authorities had established an ambulance service at seven places in the city where people were being given emergency assistance on roadside, including shifting of patients to hospitals. He said more than 100,000 people had been treated or transported to the cardiac facility, thus, saving many precious lives. He said such facilities would be expanded in the metropolis.
Water scarcity in Baldia Town
Replying to another calling-attention notice filed by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s Mohammad Qasim, Minister Ghani conceded that Baldia Town and other parts of Karachi West district were facing a serious water shortage.
He said because of lack of rain the Hub Dam reservoir had dried up, which earlier provided 100 million gallons per day (MGD) water to the district, which needed at least 115MGD. However, at present just 2MGD water was being received from the Hub source while 40MGD was being supplied from other sources. He said water theft in the city’s most populated district had been stopped to some extent and free water tanker service was available there.
He said a new 24-inch main from Habib Bank to Baldia would be ready to supply water to the area. Besides, another 100MGD scheme for the city would be completed by March and that too would improve water supply there.
MQM-P’s parliamentary leader Kanwar Naveed Jameel tabled an adjournment motion regarding “unjust water distribution in Karachi”.
Minister Chawla did not oppose the motion and the house agreed to debate the issue on Friday.
Besides, the government introduced The Code of Civil Procedure (Sindh Amendment) Bill, 2018 in the house.
Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s Abdul Rasheed spoke on the issues related to inflated electricity bills and illegal construction in Lyari.
Khwaja Izhar demanded that the Sindh Government Children Hospital in New Karachi, which had been closed for around three weeks, be opened.
Minister Ghani said the provincial cabinet had formed a committee headed by Murtaza Wahab, adviser to the CM on law, to address the issue. He added that the hospital would resume functioning in a day or two.
Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2018