KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the federal and provincial law officers as well as the Karachi mayor to sit together and come up with a joint plan on Wednesday after both the Centre and Sindh expressed concern over the ongoing operation against encroachments in the provincial capital.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who was heading a three-judge bench at the Supreme Court Karachi registry, clarified that the court had not ordered the demolition of houses, but removal of encroachments from roads, footpaths, parks and drains.
At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan and Advocate General for Sindh Salman Talibuddin expressed concern over the anti-encroachment drive and sought time for rehabilitation of the affected people.
Sindh, Centre express concern over anti-encroachment drive and seek time for rehabilitation of affected people
However, the chief justice warned that once the momentum of the ongoing drive was broken, it would not be easy to pick up where it had been left off.
The advocate general informed the bench that it had issued orders in October to remove encroachments from Empress Market and neighbouring areas in Saddar as well as from footpaths and parks, but the operation had been launched across Karachi.
The attorney general said that there were two judgements of another SC bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, regarding removal of encroachments from Kashmir Road and around 35,000 amenity plots in the city. He sought a moratorium whereas the provincial law officer expressed concern over the pace of the ongoing operation and sought its suspension for a period of time to rehabilitate the affected people.
The Sindh government had already filed an application in the apex court last week seeking review of its orders.
The chief justice observed that rehabilitation of the affected people involved discretionary powers of the provincial government and nobody was going to stop it. However, he deplored that an operation against illegal occupation in government residential facilities had been halted a couple of months ago because of the law and order situation in the city and now the current drive was also going to meet the same fate and said that writ of the state was being challenged.
Justice Nisar said the apex court was providing help to the authorities concerned to remove illegal encroachments, but political issues came in the way of the provincial and federal law officers since both governments appeared to be concerned about the operation.
However, he praised Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar for leading the drive against illegal encroachments despite putting his political career at stake.
The mayor informed the court that they had not demolished a single house so far and would not do so in future, adding that encroachments were being removed from footpaths, roads, parks and drains. He said the court order of removing encroachments from Empress Market and neighboring areas in Saddar had been complied with, but complained that there were hurdles in removal of encroachments from parks as a building had been constructed in Bin Qasim Park and officials of the high court were sitting there.
At this, the chief justice summoned record of the building from the Sindh High Court and made it clear that the apex court would not allow any construction on the premises of parks. He asked the federal and provincial law officers and the mayor to sit together and come up with a mutual plan on Wednesday morning explaining how these encroachments needed to be removed. However, he made it clear that no illegality would be tolerated.
The bench restrained the authorities concerned from demolishing the building of National Museum for the time being after senior lawyer Faisal Siddiqui informed the court that the authorities were planning to demolish the building which housed around 100,000 historical artifacts.
Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018