The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday restricted any demolition of leased properties built along the Orangi and Gujjar nullahs [stormwater drains] from being carried out until the issue was heard in the Supreme Court (SC).
During a hearing on petitions against the demolition of the leased properties, the petitioners' counsel, Faisal Siddiqui, said that the SC had ordered the removal of encroachments but there was nothing in the SC order about the removal of occupants from properties that had been given lease of 99 years by the former City District Government, Karachi under the Sindh Katchi Abadis Act 1987.
He contended that besides the demolition of homes, the National Disaster Management Authority, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and the Sindh government planned to construct a 30-foot-wide road on both sides of the two nullahs' banks. The petitioner's counsel argued that this plan had not been brought to the knowledge of the SC and that no permission had been granted for the construction of the roads. Yet the respondents have started marking the properties for demolition, he said.
During the hearing, the counsels from both sides confirmed that a petition on the matter to obtain "clarification with regard to obtaining orders for the demolition of the properties of the affectees of both the nullahs [...] who have been issued registered leases for 99 years" had been fixed for hearing in the SC for May 17.
The SHC ruled: "As the matter is already sub-judiced before the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, we have no jurisdiction to pass any order for interpreting orders of the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan."
The SHC directed the Sindh govt to seek clarification from the SC on its order regarding encroachments and the parties in the petition to place their relevant documents before the SC.
"Till the adjudication of the subject matter on the next date of hearing [...] no demolition work should be done by the respondents to the properties in the area of which registered lease deeds for 99 years have been issued by the former City District Government, Karachi," said the court order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com. It set the next date of hearing the petitions on May 18.
The petitioners' counsel also said that the SC order had directed the provincial government to ensure rehabilitation of the affected residents and the provision of all necessary facilities to them. The court inquired why the people were being displaced where there was no mechanism present to resettle them.
Additional Commissioner Karachi Asad Ali Khan responded that the "government has evolved a policy for the affectees and will provide Rs15,000 per month as rent for 24 months for the affected persons and shall also provide accommodations in accordance to [the] Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme announced by the federal government".
Following the hearing, lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir, who was also representing the petitioners, said he was "grateful" for the SHC's intervention which would "at least allow some families to spend Eid in peace and shelter during [the] pandemic."