KARACHI: The Sindh government has moved the Supreme Court with a plea to review its orders regarding removal of encroachments from amenity spaces and a request to stop the ongoing demolition exercise by the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) till a workable solution is prepared to address the issue of rehabilitation of affected people.
The Sindh government through the provincial advocate general filed an application in Islamabad on Friday, requesting the apex court to review its orders passed on Oct 26 and Nov 27. The court might take up the matter at its Karachi registry next week, AG Salman Talubuddin told Dawn.
The application said that the court on Oct 26 directed top officers of the Cantonment Board Karachi (CBK) and the KDA along with the commissioner of Karachi and the inspector general of Sindh police to conduct a joint exercise to remove encroachments, particularly those on footpaths outside Empress Market and its surrounding areas, adding that pursuant to the Oct 26-27 order, this exercise was to serve as a model for the purpose of curbing general menace of encroachments in Karachi.
By the subsequent order dated Nov 27, it was said, the apex court directed the deputy commissioners of Karachi’s East and South districts, the magistrate concerned as well as the cantonment board and the Rangers to assist the city mayor in his efforts to clear encroachments from inside and outside the Empress Market and its surrounding areas, including Saddar and public footpaths.
This order further directed that encroachments in and around public parks must also be removed while the apex court also made it clear that no law and order situation be created while removing encroachments, stated the application.
It was further submitted that the demolition and removal of encroachments that began after the issuance of the SC orders had not been confined to Empress Market and its surrounding areas; rather it this was being conducted in a very expensive manner across the city; and much outside the confines of the court orders.
“This state of affairs has created a sense of dismay amongst the residents of Karachi who, as a result of the demolition, are being deprived of their sources of livelihood and, in some areas, of their dwelling spaces,” the application said, adding that while there had been a number of violent protests, the most significant protest took place in Mehran Town (under the KDA’s control) last week which resulted in destruction of public property by the protesters, arson and injuries to at least three officials of the KDA.
In addition to the very grave social and humanitarian issues that arose on daily basis as a result of the indiscriminate demolition, the likelihood of more incidents like that in Mehran Town was increasing, the Sindh government argued. Additionally, the properties of a significant number of persons, who claimed to be in possession of valid title documents, had also been demolished, which had caused unrest among the people, it added.
The Sindh government maintained that while it was committed to resolving the issue of encroachment, the SC’s indulgence was sought for carrying out the same in a systematic and sustainable manner so that any untoward law and order situation might be avoided.
Keeping in view the pressing issues arising as a result of the indiscriminate demolition, the Sindh government said that it had decided to reactivate the Lines Area Rehabilitation Project to rehabilitate the effected shopkeepers of Empress Market and its surrounding areas, adding that it was also exploring further avenues for rehabilitation of the affected persons.
However, it said, the speed at which these proposals could be made effective could not keep the pace with the speed at which demolition was taking place on daily basis.
Therefore, it pleaded the apex court to review/revisit its Oct 26 and Nov 27 orders and direct the forthwith cessation of the ongoing demolition exercise until such time, as the Sindh government and all other entities concerned prepare a workable solution to address the above-mentioned issues and place the same before the SC for its consideration.
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018