ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed disappointment over the lack of proper transport system in the capital, rampant encroachment on public passages, right of ways in markets, roads and highways.

Acting Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, who had taken up a case related to encroachment by Centaurus Mall, summoned Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz as well as the chairman of National Highway Authority (NHA).

Capital Development Authority (CDA) Chairman Amir Ali Ahmed was directed to provide a pictorial report about the retrieval of the service road which was allegedly encroached by the mall.

Three-member bench directs mayor to inform court about removal of encroachments from roads and highways

The three-judge bench also asked the mayor to apprise the court about steps being taken for removing encroachments from different roads and highways.

The matter emanated from an appeal moved by Pak-Gulf Construction, the Centaurus Mall, against the Nov 10, 2017, Islamabad High Court (IHC) single bench order to launch an anti-encroachment campaign all over the city.

The appeal asked if a single bench in chamber could order launching of a drive and open-ended campaign to remove encroachments all over the city when no such request or prayer had been raised in the case with which the high court was seized with.

On Friday, when the case was taken up by the Supreme Court, the CDA chairman told the judges that the service road passing through Centaurus Mall had been retrieved. Besides, he added, a fully-fledged campaign had been launched to eliminate blockade of public passage on service roads and other encroachments in Blue Area.

The official assured the court that the capital city would soon be cleared of encroachments.

But Justice Sardar Tariq reminded him that road barricades and barriers still existed on Margalla Road.

“Let’s go and witness how much encroachments have been removed,” the acting chief justice observed.

While showing satisfaction on the report furnished by the CDA chairman, the court stressed the need to clear entire Islamabad from encroachments, particularly market areas.

The NHA had issued permission to private individuals to use its land and leased out land for establishment of a bus terminal and many petrol pumps and showrooms.

The court deplored about the lack of overhead pedestrian bridges for crossing highways besides cat eyes and reflectors on different roads which were also in a bad shape.

The acting chief justice regretted that it had become very difficult to drive through Bhara Kahu towards the Murree hill station whereas the greenbelt adjacent to Embassy Road had also been encroached upon.

The CDA chairman explained that the authority was trying to make Islamabad Expressway a signal-free corridor for which a substantial grant had been earmarked in the budget after a lapse of three years. Work on the extension of the Embassy Road is in progress, he added.

The official assured the court that he would satisfy the bench with the success of different projects that had been launched in the city.

The acting chief justice also wondered why the capital city lacked a proper transport system for the benefit of the citizens. He said people had to walk for miles to reach the Judges Colony or have to travel on foot from their offices back home. There should be ground trains running in the city, he remarked.

Which capital in the world lacks a transport system, the acting chief justice observed, adding establishment of a mere Jangla Bus (caged bus or metro bus system) was not enough as it did not cater to all.

“I have no idea who will rectify such a mess,” the acting chief justice wondered and then postponed the proceedings for two weeks.

Meanwhile, the CDA during its ongoing anti-encroachment drive has demolished several barriers, guardrooms, entry gates, iron grills, electricity generators and other encroachments installed on the right of ways or beyond plot boundaries, the court was informed.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2019