JUSTICE is blind, and so it should be. Sometimes however, this can run counter to human needs and compulsions.
The ongoing anti-encroachment drive in Karachi can be seen as one example.
Since the Supreme Court’s Oct 27 order that encroachments be removed from Saddar within 15 days before the operation is extended to the rest of the city, personnel from the KMC and other civic bodies have demolished over 1,000 shops and other illegal structures in the area.
Signboards exceeding the mandated dimensions have also been pulled down.
Mayor Wasim Akhtar has promised that the iconic Empress Market will be transformed into a model heritage site.
Regrettably, the demolition exercise caught most of affected vendors and the public off guard.
Protesting shopkeepers alleged that an agreement with the Karachi commissioner, which gave them a few days to remove their goods, furniture etc from the shops, had not been honoured.
No doubt that Karachi, groaning under the weight of a huge population dependent on dwindling resources and a crumbling infrastructure, has become an urban nightmare.
The free-for-all has to be arrested and the law implemented if a semblance of sanity is to be restored.
Saddar and the old city areas are a logical place to start because they are already extremely congested, where encroachments pose added risk to life and limb.
However, KMC, that has undertaken the task with such gusto is itself largely responsible for the mushrooming of encroachments.
If the law had been assiduously applied from the beginning, instead of matters being allowed to deteriorate in exchange for illegal benefits, such drastic action would not have been necessary, nor so many livelihoods threatened.
Surely, a reasonable grace period could also have been given, and legal recourse to alternative space offered to the affected vendors, many of whom have little to fall back on.
Illegality cannot be condoned, but such a ruthless enforcement of the law is discomfiting.
Moreover, will KMC ensure that such encroachments will not reappear once again?
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2018