KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed all the provincial and local governments and cantonment boards to continue the operation against encroachments on amenity spaces across the metropolis.

A two-judge bench, comprising Justices Gulzar Ahmed and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, issued a notice to provincial Minister for Local Government Saeed Ghani on an application seeking contempt proceedings against him for his alleged statements against the operation and asked him to appear in the next session.

The SC had resumed the implementation proceedings in a case regarding the removal of encroachments from public and amenity spaces, including playgrounds, parks and footpaths, in the city.

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At the outset, the judges took up an application filed by Syed Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi seeking contempt of court proceedings against Mr Ghani for allegedly issuing a statement against the operation against encroachments in disregard of the orders issued by the SC.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed, the head of the bench, came down hard on Minister Ghani and Mayor of Karachi Wasim Akhtar for reportedly issuing such statements to the media.

He observed that the minister reportedly said that “we will not raze a single building” while the mayor also reportedly said that “we will not demolish buildings”.

“Has he decided to fight a war against the court?” remarked the judge.

Justice Ahmed said that the land mafia was flourishing in the city and they were issuing such statements.

Issuing a notice to Mr Ghani on the application to submit his reply, the visibly irked judge said: “Let us first listen to everyone then we will decide what to do with them.”

Strict warning to SBCA chief

The judge also expressed his displeasure with SBCA DG Iftikhar Qaimkhani for his failure to remove all the illegal encroachments and settlements in the city and warned that he would go straight to jail from the court’s premises.

In response to the judge’s query about action against two illegal buildings in front of BBQ Tonight, DG Qaimkhani said that there was a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry going on against one of the buildings.

His response incensed the judge, who remarked whether NAB was above the Supreme Court.

The bench members told the SBCA chief that the court had clearly ordered removal of all illegal encroachments and the order should be fully implemented.

Justice Ahmed told the officer that there were multistorey buildings that had been built in the areas such as Punjab Colony and Delhi Colony and that neither had water lines or lifts.

He further told the officer that the entire Saddar area, including Zainab Market, was full of unlawful parking areas.

DG Qaimkhani assured the bench that an operation in Saddar would be carried out in the future.

The court asked the SBCA DG to wake up and start an operation against the illegal encroachments across the city, including Saddar.

Justice Ahmed observed that the SC had on Jan 22 ordered removal of all encroachments in the city and asked the officer why it should grant a further extension for the implementation of the same order.

The judge asked the mayor and other officers to explain how many plazas were being built currently in the city.

Mayor Akhtar said the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation had no control over the civic agencies such as the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board and the SBCA while the KMC had administrative control over around 17 per cent of the city’s land as the rest of the areas were controlled by other agencies.

Expressing his dismay over the state of affairs in which the metropolis was being run, Justice Ahmed said that even the infrastructure of the city had not been developed over the decades. He also expressed his shock over the manner in which, he said, the land-owning agencies were allotting and selling state land.

KCR land under encroachments

The bench gave two weeks to the Pakistan Railways authorities to retrieve the land along the tracks of the Karachi Circular Railway and hand it over to the Sindh government authorities, who were also asked to make arrangements for making the KCR functional within a month afterwards.

The bench directed the Karachi commissioner to remove illegally built multistorey buildings in Delhi Colony, Punjab Colony, TNT Colony and Neelum Colony strictly in accordance with the law.

However, it told the mayor, the commissioner, the Railways and other authorities to ensure that all the residents or shopkeepers affected by such an operation be rehabilitated.

Addressing the mayor, Justice Ahmed said: “You have sold the entire city. How much more money do you want?

“You’ve purchased properties in Dubai and London, but you can’t live there, eat the food there, or bring the weather from there here,” the judge added.

He deplored that it took three hours to leave the city and added that Karachi had not been able to reach the standard of a megacity and the entire road system had been destroyed.

The bench told the mayor and the SBCA DG to submit the original master plan of Karachi devised in 1952 clearly indicating all the changes made to it so far, with satellite images of the city.

However, the SBCA DG and the mayor both denied having any master plans in their possession.

Justice Ahmed observed that it seemed that the entire system had collapsed in the city.

The bench members asked the Sindh chief minister to convene a meeting with all the stakeholders, including the provincial government, local government and other departments, and resolve the issue of mushrooming growth of encroachments on amenity spaces and their use for commercial exploitation.

The bench directed the Rangers DG and the Sindh police inspector general to identify and remove all encroachments set up on footpaths and submit their compliance reports at the next session.

The commissioner was told to examine the allotment orders purportedly issued to the occupants of the land belonging to the Kidney Hill and submit a report in court.

The bench directed the KWSB to demolish its officers’ club built on the amenity land on Sharea Faisal, where it was running commercial marriage halls.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2019