KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday criticised the Sindh Building Control Authority over mushroom growth of unauthorised structures in the provincial metropolis and directed the chief minister to immediately remove the acting director general and other top officials of the SBCA.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, observed that apparently the SBCA had compromised on rules and pushed Karachi to the brink of a total disaster, adding that its director general had become a rubber stamp as he was unable to take decisions as per law. It said SBCA officials were allegedly involved in illegal activities and taking bribe and other government officials were also supporting them.

The court directed the Sindh chief secretary to take over the affairs of the SBCA and produce before it on the next hearing all approvals given by the authority for construction of buildings, apart from gourd-plus-two-storey ones. It asked the chief minister to overhaul the SBCA and appoint a competent and honest director general and other senior officials who fully obey the law.

The court made it clear that no exploitation would be allowed after it was informed that SBCA officials were allegedly taking bribes and allowing construction of multi-storey buildings on small plots.

Apex court told that the land of recently constructed high-rise in Karachi’s Clifton area belongs to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park

The directives came during the hearing of a matter pertaining to an unauthorised building in Sindhi Muslim Society near Sharea Faisal. At the last hearing, the SC bench had ordered its demolition after it came on record that it was built on the land meant for a drain.

During Thursday’s proceedings when SBCA acting DG Zafar Ahsan was trying to justify alleged allotment of the land, its director Mushtaq Soomro intervened and tried to produce some documents apparently in support of the building’s owner.

The chief justice came down hard on the director for interrupting the proceedings as he was not authorised to do so and ordered the chief secretary to take action against him.

The Karachi commissioner informed the bench that the building could not be demolished because of some restraining orders issued by the Sindh High Court.

The bench directed the Sindh advocate general to get these stay orders vacated and also asked the SHC to decide the matter in two months.

The apex court put on notice the owner of a recently constructed building (Com 3 Mall) adjacent to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park in Clifton and sought a report after it was informed that the plot was a part of the park.

A representative of a non-governmental organisation, Shehri-Citizens for Better Environment, said the plot belonged to the park.

Some officials argued that the Sindh Board of Revenue had allotted the land, but the chief justice said the board had nothing to do with it as the land belonged to the Karachi Development Authority.

The court directed the owner of the building to appear before it at the next hearing.

The bench directed the Karachi mayor to remove the remaining encroachments on the land for Kidney Hill Park (Ahmed Ali Park) and submit a compliance report.

Earlier, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had informed the bench that it had retrieved the 62-acre land of Kidney Hill Park under the directive of the apex court and its PC-I had been submitted to develop it as a model park.

However, during Thursday’s proceedings, a representative of the NGO submitted that only 55 acres of the land had been retrieved and a private school and houses still existed on the remaining 7.5 acres.

When the mayor said that there were some stay orders of the high court, the bench observed that since the Supreme Court had been issuing the directive, such stay orders had no impact.

Hyatt Regency Hotel

The bench directed the attorney general for Pakistan to attend the next hearing and sought the record of a land on which the abandoned Hyatt Regency Hotel structure was built. The bench was informed that the abandoned building was in the possession of Aqeel Karim Dhedhi (AKD) since the land was leased out in 2004 to him for 99 years by the Pakistan Railways to establish the National Commodity Exchange.

The counsel for AKD contended that the Privatisation Commission had leased the land after completing all formalities.

An official of the Pakistan Railways said that as per an earlier directive of the apex court, the railways land could not be leased for more than five years.

The Sindh advocate general contended that the land was meant only for railways purposes. A federal law officer sought time to file reply on this issue.

The SC bench ordered the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to develop one of its plots, located in Clifton and meant for amenity purposes, as greenbelt and directed the mayor and KDA director general to clear the encroachments.

The CAA director general informed the bench the plot measuring around eight acres was initially meant for a squash complex and later allotted to the CAA.

The bench directed the DG to develop the land as a greenbelt and build another open space, located near the airport, as urban forestation in consultation with the people concerned.

The NGO’s representative said the amenity plot in Clifton measuring over 23 acres was illegally bifurcated into two — one was allotted to the CAA and the other encroached upon.

The bench asked the mayor and KDA director general to clear encroachments on the land and revoke bifurcation and treat it as one plot to be developed as park.

Sea Breeze Plaza

The bench asked the Karachi Cantonment Board to examine a report submitted by the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak) and Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) after examining the Sea Breeze Plaza located on M.A. Jinnah Road and submit a report on its fate within two weeks.

The S.B. Complex Owners Welfare Association had moved the apex court, requesting it to review its May 9 order regarding the demolition of the plaza and contended that no report suggested that the building was dangerous and Nespak had inspected the building and its report was awaited.

On Thursday, Nespak and PEC submitted a report on infrastructural depreciation of the building which suggested that the building was not fit unless it’s re-strengthening and retrofitting.

The appellant sought time to fulfil the requirements and suggestions made in the report.

However, chief justice observed that since there was no real owner of the building, the court could not take risk to rely on setup owners. The court directed its staff to provide copy of the report to the cantonment board and asked it to consult with the engineers and other experts and file its own report on the fate of the building in two weeks.

YMCA ground

The Karachi commissioner informed the bench that as per its earlier directive, marriage halls and other commercial activities had been removed from the YMCA ground. He said a trees plantation drive would be initiated and arrangements would be made to provide sports facility to the people at the ground.

The bench directed commissioner to demolish the YMCA ground’s surroundings and fence it with iron grills.

The advocate general submitted that there was a dispute between two groups of YMCA and the matter was pending with the SHC.

The SC bench asked the SHC to decide the matter in six months.

An official, representing a firm carrying out the Green Line project, informed the apex court that the infrastructure would be completed by the end of this year. He said the project was to be completed in 2018 as initially Bahria Town (Pvt) Limited undertook to develop a portion of the project but later backtracked. Therefore, he said, now the firm was working on the full project.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2020