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KARACHI: Mayor Wasim Akhtar on Friday appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan for the resolution of the issue of Martin Quarters and Pakistan Quarters’ residents on the basis of equality and uniformity as hundreds of shanty towns and goths had been given a 99-year lease and ownership rights in the past.

He was speaking at a press conference at his office with members of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Rabita Committee Syed Arshad Hassan, Khalid Sultan, Zahid Mansoori and City Council parliamentary leader Aslam Shah Afridi and chairperson of the media management committee Sabheen Ghori with some residents of the quarters.

The mayor said the MQM had asked the prime minister to constitute a committee under the chairmanship of the Sindh governor with non-elected permanent residents of the city belonging to all political parties.

‘Occupants themselves maintained these crumbling structures after spending huge amounts annually’

“The committee may be assigned to hear the association of the retired government servants and other affected residents and decide the case once [and] for all to the satisfaction of the agonised retired government servants, their widows and children”, he said.

Mr Akhtar said the MQM-P was also reviewing the legalities in this matter to pursue this in the Supreme Court. “The MQM Coordination Committee also stands with us on this issue in the larger interest of the people and we have pledged to raise our voice on this issue at all levels,” he added.

Annual maintenance costs

The mayor said that nearly 7,000 government employees were allotted hurriedly-constructed tin-roofed residential quarters by the federal government upon their migration to Pakistan and they continued to live there even after retirement. “Since these quarters were never maintained by any government agency, the occupants themselves maintained these crumbling structures after spending huge amounts annually in the hope that the government would finally transfer these quarters to them or to their widows and children,” he said.

He recalled that former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had ordered construction of decent multistorey buildings for the residents of Martin and Pakistan Quarters in the city and elsewhere after the estate department had served them with notices to vacate their residences. “The federal cabinet in its meeting in 1989 resolved that the inhabitants of the government quarters should not be disturbed from their present dwellings.”

He said that it was further resolved that the housing ministry would visit the site to examine the possibility of construction of new quarters on 11 acres, while the present inhabitants could be given ownership rights of the dwellings under their use.

The mayor said that again in a meeting held on Sept 28, 2004, under the chairmanship of the then prime minister, it was resolved that four-storey apartments would be built for the residents/occupants of the government quarters.

He said that while the KMC’s anti-encroachment drive was in full swing, federal government officials with force came to Pakistan Quarters and threatened to demolish the quarters.

Katchi abadis regularised in the past

The mayor said that 1,400 katchi abadis in the province, including 575 in Karachi, were established by encroachers on government and municipal land and all of them were regularised with encroachers getting permanent ownership rights. “Such orders of regularisation were issued on the orders of the then prime minister in 1985 and also by the Pakistan Peoples Party’s government in 2016,” he added.

Answering a question, he said the katchi abadis regularised in Karachi were spread over 15,000 acres of government and municipal land. “Similarly, under the Goth Abad Scheme, the provincial government conferred proprietary rights upon those occupants who had established goths on government land without any authorisation,” he said.

The mayor said that 26,632 unauthorised goths/villages established on government land had been regularised by 1999.

He said the central government acquired land from time to time in the past from the KMC for specific purposes as well as the construction/establishment of its employees’ quarters. “Nearly 40 acres, situated on either side of Jahangir Road up to Golimar, were acquired by the central government from the KMC for the establishment of Martin and Clayton Quarters and Jahangir Quarters,” he added.

The mayor said that seven katchi abadis, established between Martin Quarters and Jahangir Quarters, were also given a 99-year lease.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2019