The Supreme Court on Tuesday forbade provincial authorities from destroying houses during an ongoing city-wide anti-encroachment drive.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing review petitions filed by various parties, including the Sindh government, against the apex court's earlier order on the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the city at the Karachi Registry.
Sindh Advocate General Sindh Salman Taalibuddin told the bench that the apex court had ordered authorities to clear encroachments situated around Empress Market, adding that there were reservations over the drive extending to other parts of the city. He urged the court to review the order.
The chief justice responded that the top court had only ordered city authorities to clear the footpaths and streets around Empress Market, and to make the historic structure "a model for the rest of Karachi".
"The directive to remove encroachments from the footpaths and streets was clear," Justice Nisar said. "We wanted pedestrians to also have some rights while walking on the streets."
"How will people walk on footpaths if they are taken over by pushcarts?" he asked.
"We were concerned about Karachi's law and order situation at that time as well," he added.
"How did the Supreme Court ruin the law and order situation in Karachi?" the top judge asked. "What is our link to this? Rehabilitation of displaced people and making alternative arrangements for them is the job of the government."
The chief justice said that houses which are still occupied by families of deceased government employees should also be vacated.
He added that the properties that had been given away on pagdi must also be vacated.
"When you ask people like these to vacate their houses, a law and order situation is created," the chief justice remarked.
Justice Nisar expressed his displeasure when Mayor Waseem Akhtar failed to show up on time. When he was told that the mayor was late due to blocked roads and traffic, the chief justice asked: "If other people can arrive on time, why can't the mayor?"
Justice Nisar said that Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar informed the court that he himself had taken the initiative to begin clearing out the encroachments from the areas surrounding Empress Market.
"We had not passed any order at the time, when the mayor began working of his own accord," the chief justice said.
He asked whether the encroachments around Empress Market had been cleared already, to which the attorney general replied in the affirmative.
"We can't now order that the area be re-encroached," the top judge said.
The advocate general said that the razing shops was leading to rise in unemployment.
"Demolishing one shop takes away the livelihood of a man," he argued.
The chief justice agreed that after the clearance of encroachments, the matter of relocation will arise, but the task of making alternative arrangements for affectees was the Sindh government's responsibility.
"What will happen now is the Sindh government's responsibility. We have not stopped anyone from making alternative arrangements," he said.
"If they want to give the affectees an alternative venue for their shops, they should do it. When did we stop them?" he asked.
The advocate general said that the Sindh government had a plan to relocate the traders who had shops on encroached lands. He appealed to the court to allow the government to relocate the shops and then continue the drive.
The court was told that some traders in areas marked for the anti-encroachment drive slept in their shops. The advocate general added that the government was relocating some affectees of the drive to the Lines Area.
The CJP ordered the mayor, the Centre and the provincial government to submit their plan in court tomorrow.
The chief justice also suggested that the extensions to the National Museum building be razed. However, no order was passed in this regard.
The attorney general, who also appeared in court today, told the bench that a report prepared by the director of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) revealed that around 35,000 plots in Karachi had been illegally occupied.
He said that no action had been taken on the findings of the report as yet.
City government is 'against qabza mafia'
Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar, while talking to the media outside the Supreme Court Karachi registry, said that the city government's agenda was not to raze houses but to restore parks and clear illegal structures built on nullahs.
He claimed that the city authorities were "against the qabza mafia".
He added that the provincial government had appealed to the court to stop the anti-encroachment operation and declared that the drive will continue. Akhtar added that the Sindh government's job was to relocate the affectees.
Owais Muzaffar Tappi to be produced before SC tomorrow
The bench ordered police to produce former president Asif Zardari's foster brother, Owais Muzaffar Tappi, in court tomorrow.
Residents of Shah Latif Town had complained that Tappi, had illegally occupied their plots.
The bench, on the complaint of the citizens, ordered the Additional Inspector General (Legal) to produce Tappi in court tomorrow.