KARACHI: The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in Sindh engaged in a fresh conflict with each other on Saturday when the provincial administration launched an anti-encroachment drive on the outskirts of the city and demolished dozens of farmhouses reportedly owned by Leader of the Opposition in Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh and his family and recovering around 1,700 acres of state land.
As officials insisted that the action was part of a government drive in line with the Supreme Court’s directives against encroachments, the opposition leader and his party came up with a strong reaction describing the action of the PPP administration as political vendetta and vowed to take up the issue at all relevant forums.
“Structures of some 200 farmhouses were razed in Memon Goth,” said a Malir district official. “The structures included farmhouses, poultry farms, cattle pens, a few makeshift houses and some temporary recreational structures. Heavy machinery and hundreds of labourers were used in the operation.”
Protest against operation
However, it was not an easy task for the Malir district administration, which faced strong resistance minutes after the operation in the suburbs was started and dozens of area people including men and women emerged against the drive.
However, the operation continued unabated as the district administration backed by a heavy contingent of police managed to counter the resistance and dispersed the crowd.
In the evening, a large number of PTI workers blocked the main Superhighway by staging a protest sit-in there.
A party spokesman said that a written request had also been filed with the Gadap police station pleading a case against the officials of the Malir district administration and Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) as well as the provincial chief minister for demolition of dozens of legal structures without any prior notice.
PPP blamed for ‘personal attack’
Later, both the PTI and PPP issued statements against each other.
However, Mr Shaikh of the PTI saw the operation as a ‘personal attack’ by the PPP administration only for his “outspoken and fearless campaign against corruption of the ruling party”.
“Me and my family owned these lands since 2001,” he said while talking to reporters. “The land was acquired after meeting all formalities. We were awarded the land on a 99-year lease by the relevant department. We have all the required documents, but let me tell you it’s not about documents or legality ... it aims at stopping someone from struggling against their corruption but it would never happen.”
He claimed to have received direct and indirect threats from the PPP ministers, who through different channels conveyed to him to stay silent or be ready to face the consequences.
“So today, the cat is out of the bag,” said Mr Shaikh. “They have shown their true face. But let me tell the PPP rulers that people of Sindh are not their slaves and they would not let them run away with such tactics. Such illegal moves cannot stop us from telling the truth.”
PTI leader told to prove ownership of land
A Sindh government spokesman, however, ruled out the PTI leader’s claims and asked him to prove the ownership of the demolished properties in Malir.
“Haleem Adil Shaikh has never owned such properties,” Chief Minister’s Adviser Murtaza Wahab told reporters during a visit to Hill Park to review its renovation project. “The documents he has submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan did not mention these properties. So the question is whether these are benami properties, which is again an illegal activity.”
He said the PTI leaders and lawmakers appreciated every anti-encroachment operation in Punjab and Islamabad but resisted the same in Sindh.
This, he said, suggested the dual standard of justice and accountability being pursued by the ruling party at the centre.
Also, Sindh Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Shah said that the operation was initiated under the already ongoing campaign against encroachments. “It’s against encroachers regardless of his or her position. The Malir operation was carried out in the same spirit and the drive would continue till the targets are achieved.”
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2021