KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Rangers authorities to dismantle their checkpoints set up on city roads that were no longer in use.
Justice Gulzar Ahmed passed this order while heading a meeting at the apex court’s Karachi registry to review progress on the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the metropolis.
The meeting was attended by the chief secretary, home secretary, metropolitan commissioner, senior officers of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, Karachi Development Authority, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, Sindh Building Control Authority, Pakistan Railways, police, Rangers, cantonment boards and others.
Sources told Dawn that an assistant director of the KMC’s anti-encroachment department submitted a report stating that operations were conducted in 35 areas for removal of encroachments in the light of the apex court’s directives.
The report stated that 143 unauthorised shops and 300 pavement set-ups had been razed during an operation in the Dawood Chowrangi area.
Justice Gulzar Ahmed reviews progress of the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in Karachi
It stated that 55 cabins, 150 pavements and 148 illegally raised walls had been demolished in Mehran Town. It added that 70 walls and 30 pavements had been demolished during an operation in the fish market on Nishtar Road.
Similarly, the report further stated that 25 shops, 30 wall-fixers and 30 pavements had been removed/demolished during an operation in the Khajoor Bazaar. In the Sarrafa Bazaar, 300 unauthorised pavements were removed and 20 walls pulled down, it added.
The report added that 22 shops, 70 cabins and 71 sunshades built/erected illegally were removed during an operation in Baldia Town while another 40 shops, 30 wall-fixers and 40 pavements were also demolished in Peetal Gali.
Housing colonies on KWSB land
KWSB’s managing director Khalid Shaikh, deputy MD Asadullah and others also appeared and submitted a progress report.
They informed the judge that there were around 25 to 30 such areas where housing colonies were constructed near the water pumping stations or sewerage treatment plants of the water utility, adding that these accommodations were for the officers so that they could look after 24-hour operations of these pumping stations/plants.
Their report further mentioned that while the land of these housing societies was not mentioned as amenity land in any master plan, these accommodations did not mean encroachments since the same were considered a part of the water board’s land.
The report stated that there was a housing colony in the vicinity of the Sewerage Treatment Plant-II in Mehmoodabad, but since the plant was lying dysfunctional and the untreated water was being diverted to the TP-IV, the land in question was not required by the water utility.
However, the KWSB officers informed that they could not get the land in question vacated since enormous residential buildings had been built on it while the water board had no ownership rights in respect of the subject land.
The officers proposed that the ownership rights of the land in question may be given to the KWSB so that it could initiate action against encroachments.
Justice Ahmed directed Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin to hold a meeting with the Karachi commissioner to resolve the matter.
The AG informed the judge that the operation for removal of encroachments from amenity plots, public parks and storm-water drains was continuing in compliance with the court directives.
No action taken against residential buildings
However, the law officer said no action was taken against residential buildings which had been built in an illegal or unauthorised manner since it was required to first serve notices on the occupants of such houses/residential buildings asking them to voluntarily vacate those premises.
He proposed that in case the anti-encroachment staff visited any residential areas and the residents showed ownership documents, (along with the fact that a number of cases in this regard were also pending before the courts concerned), the apex court may issue necessary directives to the relevant courts to decide such matters on a priority basis within a specific period of time.
The apex court’s judge asked the authorities concerned to continue operation against encroachments from public parks, footpaths, amenity plots and storm-water drains.
To a query regarding the barricades placed on roads, Rangers officers informed the judge that some pickets set up on roads for security purposes had not been removed so that the deployment of troops could be made as and when required in the wake of any untoward situation.
However, the judge asked them to ensure that the pickets no more in their routine use be dismantled and unnecessary barricades also be removed from a portion of Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road.
The divisional superintendent of Pakistan Railways submitted a progress report, stating that the operation was under way for removal of encroachments from the land belonging to the Railways as well as the tracks of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) and the tram in the city and the same would be retrieved from encroachers.
The meeting would resume at 3pm on Tuesday (today).
Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2018