SC gives Sindh a year to resettle those hit by demolitions in Karachi

Published September 23, 2021
This file photo shows houses being bulldozed along Gujjar nullah in Karachi. — White Star/File
This file photo shows houses being bulldozed along Gujjar nullah in Karachi. — White Star/File

KARACHI: The Supreme Court took the Sindh government to task on Wednesday after the provincial law officer contended that they have no funds to relocate people displaced by demolitions around three nullahs of the city and directed Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to rehabilitate them within a year.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed also directed the chief minister to ensure arrangement of funds for the purpose and sought a report in this regard in two weeks.

The chief justice said the Sindh government was banking on the money being deposited by Bahria Town Karachi (BTK) against regularisation of its housing scheme, which has still not been deposited completely.

At the outset of the hearing, the SC bench also comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed asked Advocate General for Sindh Salman Talibuddin about the reports and rehabilitation of the people displaced by demolitions on the directive of apex court around Gujjar, Orangi Town and Mehmoodabad nullahs.

The advocate general said the Sindh government had no funds to resettle the affected people as 6,500 houses were needed to be built at a cost of Rs10 billion and requested the bench to provide the same amount from the funds being deposited by BTK with the Supreme Court.

Justice Ahsan said the funds in question were still in the air and the provincial government was pinning hopes on such money, adding that the apex court would take a decision on the BTK funds. He observed that the Sindh government has to allocate funds in the budget to relocate these people.

Justice Amin said the provincial law officer was expressing the Sindh government’s inability to rehabilitate the affected people.

CJP Gulzar deplored that the Sindh government was taking loans from the World Bank and other organisations for other purposes, but refusing to resettle the affected people on the pretext of shortage of funds. He also asked the advocate general what action was taken against the officials who had leased out the land around the nullahs.

Justice Ahsan said the court was not assisting the provincial government in arrangement of funds as it had sold the land for BTK’s scheme at a throwaway price. He said the funds in question were never going to the Sindh government’s packet, but the SC implementation bench would ensure that these were spent on the betterment of the people of the province.

Justice Ahsan said it was a responsibility of the Sindh government to arrange funds and rehabilitate the affected people.

CJP Gulzar snubbed Mr Talibuddin for repeatedly asking for the BTK funds and said it was not the way to argue as the provincial law officer was bargaining with the apex court.

He regretted that the infrastructure of Karachi, including roads, footpaths and sewerage, had collapsed and illegal constructions and encroachments on public spaces were continuing. “This is what the Sindh government is. Shame on Sindh government,” the CJP remarked.

When Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan told the bench that the federal government could collaborate with the Sindh government for relocation of the affected people, CJP Gulzar said it would not happen and advised both the governments to abandon political rivalries and serve the people.

While dictating the order, the CJP said this was a big issue for the Sindh and federal governments to resettle the affected people and the statement of the provincial law officer appeared to be unreasonable for banking on the money which has still not come. He said the provincial government was not complying with the apex court’s orders.

The chief justice directed the chief minister to ensure that the affected people are relocated in all manners by providing all amenities within a year and to arrange money for the purpose.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2021

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