KARACHI: The Supreme Court directed the federal authorities on Friday to take action against unauthorised constructions and encroachments in Karachi’s PNT Colony, Delhi Colony and Punjab Colony and asked the Sindh government to carry out planned development work at Nehr-i-Khayyam in Clifton.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, expressed resentment over the federal and provincial authorities for not properly implementing its May 2019 order regarding the removal of encroachments and unauthorised buildings.

Advocate General Salman Talibuddin submitted that the Sindh government had already constituted a committee, comprising town planners and other experts, which was working to give suggestions regarding unauthorised buildings in Karachi and rehabilitation of affected people. He apprised the bench that a cabinet committee was examining an initial report submitted by the town planners’ committee.

About the Nehr-i-Khayyam development plan, the AG said the Sindh government was about to launch the project when some people approached the Sindh High Court and obtained a stay order.

All buildings apart from residential quarters of govt be removed from PNT Colony, bench directs attorney general

Observing that such practices were stopping development work, the apex court allowed the Sindh government to start the project, but restrained it from any commercial activity at the project site till the completion of the work.

The bench then directed the SHC to dispose of the matters regarding Nehr-i-Khayyam.

About the people displaced during the anti-encroachment drive, which was launched to get the land of Karachi Circular Railways vacated, the advocate general informed the apex court that around 6,000 people were affected and it was necessary to rehabilitate them.

The chief justice said it was the government’s responsibility to relocate the affected people. He said the Sindh government should accommodate them and also make necessary legislation, if required.

The AG contended that the provincial government was working on it, but complained that the federal government had not released its promised share of around Rs100 billion to the Sindh government.

Justice Faisal Arab, also a member of the bench, asked the provincial law officer where they were going to relocate these people as “you have sold out almost the entire city”.

The advocate general submitted that the proposed plan would be placed before the court and would be implemented with court’s permission.

PNT, Delhi, Punjab colonies

The bench took exception to non-compliance of its earlier order about unauthorised constructions and encroachments in PNT Colony, Delhi Colony and Punjab Colony and directed the federal authorities to clear its land.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan submitted that these colonies were located on the federal government land and apparently it was leased out to people and they approached the high court and obtained stay orders.

The bench observed that since the land belonged to the federal government, nobody had the authority to lease it to private persons and directed the authorities to remove the unlawful multi-storey buildings and encroachments.

The chief justice noted that when the PNT department had already been dissolved what was the purpose of PNT Colony. The federal law officer contended that employees of Pakistan Post and PTCL had been residing in the residential quarters.

The SC said all buildings apart from the residential quarters of the government should be removed from PNT Colony.

The bench was informed that Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) was also claiming ownership of the land and had moved a petition before the SHC.

An official of the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) admitted before the SC bench that unauthorised buildings were being raised in Delhi Colony.

At this point, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, another member of the bench, came down hard on the CBC officer and said that they allowed these constructions and collected millions of rupees.

The chief justice expressed displeasure over officials for not properly managing the government land and observed that if he called and examined the record of Defence Housing Authority (DHA), most of them might be found unauthorised.

He deplored that around 55 per cent city areas comprised kutchi abadis and the relevant authorities were responsible for it.

When the bench asked the federal law officer to get these areas vacated, he sought time to sit with the provincial authorities, officials of contentment boards and others concerned to ‘resolve’ the issue. The court granted time to the attorney general and directed him to submit the compliance report at the next hearing.

The attorney general further said that they could not remove the kutchi abadis immediately as arrangements were needed for resettlement of affected people.

Railways plots

The bench directed the Pakistan Railways to turn its two amenity plots at Kalapul into parks.

A law officer of the railways informed the SC that both plots belonged to Pakistan Railways and one of them was leased out to the National Medical Centre in 2017 for three years for a car park.

The chief justice observed that the NMC should arrange its own parking and said both the plots be converted into parks within three months and its surrounding walls must also be replaced with iron grills.

PIA wedding halls

The SC directed the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to dismantle the structure of wedding halls located on its planetarium on University Road till Saturday.

When the general manager (law) of PIA informed the bench that as per its earlier order, the wedding functions were no more held at its planetarium, the chief justice said the structure was still there and directed the relevant authorities to dismantle it immediately.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2020