KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the chief secretary, Karachi mayor and others on an application seeking direction for the authorities concerned to develop the amenity plots lying unattended across the metropolis, including Clifton.
A two-judge bench comprising Justices Gulzar Ahmed and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, which took up the matter at the Karachi registry, asked the authorities to submit their replies till the next hearing.
The application was filed by the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation, pleading to become an intervener in a case pertaining to removal of illegal encroachments from public parks, playgrounds and other amenity spaces in the metropolis.
The court is asked to order setting up of a ‘Karachi Planning and Development Authority’ for a new master plan of the metropolis
The applicant sought the apex court’s intervention with regard to formulation of a plan for workable urban planning and development, arguing that presently it was being neglected by the Sindh government, the Sindh Building Control Authority and other relevant authorities, as they had completely failed to carry out the same to the benefit of the people of Karachi.
The applicant said it was imperative that a most important initiative taken by the Supreme Court in tackling the issue of illegally transferred land, illegal occupation of land and wrongful conversion of the usage of several plots was continued to save the city of Karachi and provide its citizens with proper basic amenities of parks, hospitals, schools, residential areas as this was their fundamental right.
Advocate Arshad Tayebaly submitted that the intervener had been working on these issues with the Institute of Architects Pakistan-Karachi chapter over the last several years and had done extensive research in this area.
The counsel submitted that certain plots in the metropolis needed immediate attention so their illegal conversion could be avoided. “There are many empty pieces of land in the city, both amenity plots and others, that are lying unused and have become trash dumps,” he added.
He further submitted that these plots had to be developed for their intended use.
The counsel also mentioned that a plot known as “Hippodrome” in Block 5 of Clifton, which was located next to the Karachi Grammar School, was required to be developed as a park but was completely neglected.
He further informed the court that similarly the area known as Neher-i-Khayyam in Clifton also needed to be cleaned. Numerous plans had been made to clean the said area, but it remained in the same state and there was no progress for cleaning it, he added.
The applicant said these were just a few plots which needed immediate attention and restoration to bring green and public spaces to these locations.
He added that there were countless other plots in the city, which were still vacant and pleaded to the apex court to issue necessary directives to the authorities concerned to develop them with full speed and bona fide intentions.
The applicant said it could provide a detailed list of plots lying vacant as dumps and where the public parks were required to be made.
The counsel mentioned that the apex court through its order, dated Jan 22 and Jan 24, had directed the relevant authorities to take necessary action with a view to stop increasing number of illegal conversions.
However, the applicant urged the apex court to direct them to first build and develop the plots and lands laying vacant, as these may be subject to illegal conversion if not developed for intended use.
The counsel further submitted that the applicant had been working with the residents of Clifton’s Block 5, who had instituted several suits against the illegal commercialisation in their residential area, as there were various establishments including restaurants, clubs, studios and schools that were functioning on residential properties.
It was stated that despite the issuance of a stay order by the Sindh High Court and the public notice issued by the SBCA against illegal conversion of residential properties into schools and other establishments, commercial activities continue with blatant contempt.
The court was pleaded to order the authorities concerned to set up a Karachi Planning and Development Authority for preparing and implementing a new master plan of Karachi with regard to zoning of areas, creation of public spaces and allotment of amenity plots.
It also asked the court to direct the authorities concerned to immediately develop the amenity plots and public spaces which were presently vacant and unattended including those located in the Clifton area.
The apex court was also asked that a proper distinction be made between legal and illegal conversions and all those plots which were being illegally converted such as those in Clifton be stopped immediately.
Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2019