Displaced families to be rehabilitated in two years, CM Murad tells SC

Published October 26, 2021
A file photo of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah. — DawnNewsTV/File
A file photo of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah. — DawnNewsTV/File

• Sindh to provide Rs9bn for resettlement
• CJP berates Karachi administrator
• KDA chief says he was transferred as ‘system’ was not happy
• Bench calls for restoration of LG system

KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Monday expressed serious resentment over the provincial and local authorities for not addressing the issue of encroachments on public spaces, illegal constructions and unauthorised allotments as well as little progress regarding rehabilitation of affectees after demolition drive around three nullahs of the city

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed observed that Karachi’s civic agencies were powerless and officials were under the fear of being transferred as the director general of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) informed it that he got a stay order from the high court against his removal hardly three month after his appointment.

At the outset, the bench also comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed issued directive for immediate appearance of the Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah after provincial law officer Salman Talibuddin could not give a satisfactory reply about the progress regarding rehabilitation of the people displaced after a demolition drive around Gujjar, Orangi Town and Mehmoodabad nullahs.

The CM appeared in court and submitted that initially the cabinet had approved Rs1 billion and 250 acres of land for resettlement of the displaced persons but a sum of around Rs10 billion was required to complete the project.

The bench expressed its displeasure over the CM when he repeatedly tried to plead that Rs10bn may be provided for such a project from the funds being deposited by the Bahria Town Karachi with the Supreme Court.

He also complained that the federal government was also not properly providing the province’s share of revenue.

Justice Ahsan asked the CM not to bank on the money that was still in the air as the matter was subjudice and the apex court’s implementation bench was looking after this matter. “It is the constitutional and legal obligations of the government to resettle displaced people,” the judge added.

Eventually, the chief minister agreed and assured the bench that remaining amount of Rs9bn would also be generated / arranged by the provincial government and the process of rehabilitation would be completed in two years.

About the removal of encroachments, Mr Shah submitted that they were implementing the court orders, but there was also a human angle about displacement of people and said he was seeking guidance from the bench.

Justice Ahsan said that the authorities concerned had illegally leased out the land around nullahs to the people and allowed them to construct houses.

He asked as to who was running the city as its civic agencies were powerless and even the master plan of the city had gone missing, adding that civic authorities were virtually non-functional.

The judge further said that there was a systemic failure and this city needed proper system and organisation to run it, adding that the CM was not suppose to run the city, but to run the province.

While referring to the statement of the KDA chief about his transfer order, Justice Ahsan said that provincial government needed to stand behind such institutions for the betterment of the city.

Justice Ahsan recalled a statement of the Sindh advocate general made on the last hearing that the province had no money to rehabilitate affectees and said that it was an alarming situation as how the second largest province of the country could make such a statement.

The chief minister claimed that the civic authorities were empowered under the law. However, he asserted that they were facing shortage of human resources as 12 posts of grade-21 officers were laying vacant as the federal government had not provided the services of such officers despite many requests.

The bench directed the Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan, who was present during the proceedings, to resolve the issue.

The CM said that the Sindh Public Service Commission had been dysfunctional since April in the light of a judgement of the Sindh High Court and the government had filed an appeal before the apex court. He requested the CJP to take up the issue.

The CJP asked the CM that no new housing society had been launched during the past 40 years in the city, adding that situation in Hyderabad, Sukkur and other parts of the province was not different from Karachi as there were also issues of encroachments and lack of infrastructure.

The CJP said that a common man could not access CM and his ministers and there was a need for restoration of the local government system in the province.

About the transfer and posting of officers, Justice Ahsan said that there was a judgement of the apex court in this regard and the authorities cornered would have to record cogent reasons in writing if they transferred an officer before the time set in the order.

Wahab earns SC ire

The SC bench came down hard on Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab about encroachments on amenity plots and other public spaces and failure of local authorities to clear them and directed him to submit a report about encroachments and the action taken to restore parks and amenity plots.

The administrator submitted that there were 136 ST plots (amenity plots) in district South, 64 in West, 11 in East and eight in Central district of the provincial metropolis.

When the bench asked him what action had been taken to restore such plots for intended purposes, the administrator sought time and submitted that there was a human angle.

The CJP snubbed him and said that he was not summoned to deliver a lecture on human angle but to inform the bench about the action taken to vacate the public spaces of the city from encroachers.

The administrator said that they had digitalized the record of revenue being generated through parks, shops and huts owned by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, adding that he was trying to increase the revenue of the KMC and they were going to enhance the revenue of filling stations being operating on KMC land.

At this juncture, Justice Ahsan said that there was an order of the apex court about filling stations and there must be an open auction and space be provided at market rates.

The CJP directed the administrator to provide all the information regarding encroachments on roads, footpaths, amenity plots, parks and all other public spaces of the city and how many public spaces had been vacated.

Mr Wahab said that there were 46 parks under the administrative control of the KMC, but a representative of NGO Shehri pointed out that only those parks spreading over two-acres area came within the domain of KMC and the rest belonged to the district municipal corporations.

The CJP again expressed his displeasure over the administrator and said, “Don’t try to be extra smart.”

He said that the anti-encroachment cell of the KMC was doing nothing as most of the city had been encroached upon, but it was not filing any complaint/case since currently no case was pending before the anti-encroachment tribunals of the city.

Approved master plan sought

The bench also directed the KDA chief to produce old record of land and the approved master plan of the city in one week as well as details of ST plots and also make efforts for restoration of the amenity plots.

The bench also summoned the senior director-master plan along with record after it was informed that the master plan section did not fall under the administrative control of the KDA and its officials were also not cooperating.

KDA DG Asif Memon informed that bench that he assumed office on Aug 4, but he was removed from the post and an “OPS officer” had replaced him. However, he said that he got a stay order from the SHC.

He informed the bench when he asked the local government minister whether he or the chief minister were unhappy with him, the minister replied that the “system” was not happy over his appointment.

The CJP remarked that the “system” was operating outside the country. However, the KDA-DG said that some people part of the “system” were also here.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2021

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