ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has ordered the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) to clear all the encroachments by shopping malls in the capital.

A three-judge bench headed by acting Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Tuesday also ordered thecity’s administrationto clear private parking spaces on publicpassagesand right of ways allegedly encroached upon by Shifa International Hospital, Safa Gold Mall and Centaurus within a month.

The SC has taken up a case regarding encroachment that emanated from an appeal moved by Pak Gulf Constructionandthe Centaurus Mall, against a Nov 10, 2017, Islamabad High Court single bench order to launch a drive to remove encroachments all over the city.

Court holds NHA responsible for traffic accidents on highways and motorways

During the hearing, the SC said that faulty and unwise planning was resulting in the number of road accidents on highways and motorways, and held the National Highway Authority (NHA) director general responsible for the loss of lives and property in such incidents.

It would have been much better had the NHA not built the motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad, Justice Ahmed said, adding that scores of people die every day in road accidents on the Jamshoro Road.

The department looking after the country’s highways has become the most corrupt institution in the country, he said.

Justice Ahmed recalled that for the last eight years, he has witnessed work in progress on the Kashmir Highway in Islamabad, adding that it seemed that construction on the highway had become a permanent source of employment for someone.

He also wondered why a graft caseshould not bereferred to the National Accountability Bureau against the responsible NHA officers to retrievecorruption moneyfrom them.

The SC also asked Attorney General Anwar Mansoor and Advocate General Islamabad Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri to appear before the court at the next date of hearing.

The court regretted that citizens of the capital were being deprived of basic amenities and also suggested that, instead of building apartments thecity’s administrationshould consider encouraging houses, because apartments were ignored after being constructed without any proper maintenance.

Justice Ahmed also recalled that the city of Karachi was defaced because of such apartments.

While pointing towards Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz, Justice Ahmed wondered about the wisdom of keeping the charred Awami Markaz building on Constitution Avenue.

The huge workforce of the MCI, of more than 11,000, was sitting idle, he observed. Justice Ahmed ordered the head of the NHA, the chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the mayor to remain present in court when the case is taken up again in a month.

The court also expressed dismay over the lack of planning in the construction of Islamabad’s metro bus service.

The mayor assured the court that the SC’s directions would be carried out but added that the MCI has become an institution without a budget or any rules to run its business, therefore it would be a far-fetched goal to expect an optimal performance.

A report furnished by the mayor also highlighted a number of taxes in the city that fall within the MCI’s domain but are being collected by other institutions, putting greater stress on the corporation’s revenue stream.

The report gave the examples of property and professional tax, which are collected by the CDA andICTA, and added that the fees for building plans and land use are the right of the MCI but are being collected by the CDA.

The report conceded that although the MCI was performing its functions to make Islamabad a liveable city by

providing various municipal services, including the removal of temporary encroachments, its performance was sub-optimal due to several impediments removing which would increase its performance greatly.

However, the kind of support the MCI needs from the government is missing, the report said, and no funds have

been provided to the corporation aside from a Rs2.6 billion grant to pay staff salaries.

The MCI thus has a very limited revenue source to meet its expenditure on essential services such as employees, salaries, water supply, sanitation, electricity bills, fuel and machinery maintenance, the report said.

The CDA is currently loaning the MCI money to pay salaries and electricity

bills and meet minimal operational expenses, it said, adding that the MCI’s finances are in deplorable condition, the report said.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2019