Pre-demolition work begins at Nasla Tower as CJP chastises Karachi commissioner for flouting court orders
After the Supreme Court on Wednesday chastised Karachi Commissioner Muhammad Iqbal Memon over his failure to carry out court orders to raze Nasla Tower and warned of being held in contempt, pre-demolition work at the doomed high-rise began.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed, while hearing a number of cases on Karachi's civic issues, instructed the commissioner to use all heavy equipment and machinery available at his disposal and "immediately demolish" Nasla Tower and Tejori Heights. He also ordered that a report be submitted in the court later in the day.
At the outset of the hearing, the chief justice inquired whether the demolition order had been carried out or not. To this, Memon said that he needed "guidance" from the court and wanted to say something.
"Cut to the chase, did you demolish the building or not?" the chief justice questioned as he grilled the commissioner and warned that he could be sent to jail over contempt of court.
"Do you know where you are standing?" Justice Ahmed remarked while addressing the commissioner.
"You are constantly committing contempt of court. Is he worthy of being called a commissioner? He is a grade 18 officer who is saying such things here."
Pre-demolition work begins at Nasla Tower
Following the court's admonition, pre-demolition preparatory work, which included removing of the panels and windows began. Heavy equipment and machinery were deployed at the site, according to the Karachi Commissioner.
Memon explained that the high rise's demolition had begun earlier but was paused due to a lack of safety measures.
"There was a fear of loss of life and property. It was the the Supreme Court's order to not cause loss of life and property," he said. "The demolition work is now being expedited on the Supreme Court's orders so that it can be demolished as soon as possible."
Demolition orders of Nasla Tower, Tejori Heights
On June 16, a three-judge SC bench, presided by the CJP, had initially ordered the demolition of the 15-storey Nasla Tower for encroaching on the land meant for a service road.
Issuing a detailed order for the same on June 19, the court had also directed the builders of Nasla Tower to refund the amount to the registered buyers of residential and commercial units within three months.
Later, the builder of Nasla Tower had filed a review petition against the June 16 order, which was dismissed by the apex court last month.
On Oct 25, the SC had directed the city commissioner to demolish Nasla Tower through "controlled blasting" within a week and submit a report. Companies were subsequently told to submit their respective demolition costs until two were shortlisted.
Subsequently, district administration served notices to the residents of Nasla Tower earlier in October, directing them to vacate the 15-storey building by Oct 27 or face coercive action by relevant authorities. By Oct 28, almost all families had vacated their respective apartments.
The city administration had then sought directions of the apex court to finalise the demolition of Nasla Tower as one firm sought Rs220 million for razing the high-rise via controlled implosion while the other offered free-of-cost service via mechanical means.
Tejori Heights Tower, meanwhile, was ordered to be demolished within four weeks on Oct 29 along with orders to the builders for allottees to be refunded within three months. The bench had asked the commissioner to ensure that the process of demolition and removal of debris was completed within the stipulated period.
'Board of Revenue has become a land grabbing group'
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court bench also conducted a hearing over the Board of Revenue's alleged allotment of Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) land to a private group for building another terminal at Karachi airport.
The court ordered activities on the land to be halted immediately, adding that the land should only be used for aviation purposes.
The Federal Investigation Agency submitted its report on the matter to the court. According to the report, counterfeit documents were forged for the CAA property, while two cases were registered against forgers and four suspects had been arrested as well.
At this, the chief justice said that the Sindh government was backing the people that were in control of the land.
Justice Ahsan, meanwhile, came down hard on the Sindh Board of Revenue, saying it had become a "qabza group" (land grabbing group) itself.
The chief justice remarked that clubs had been built on government land and soon housing societies would be as well.
CAA officials present in the hearing agreed to end commercial activities but requested that the mess should be left to remain. They explained that a club and mess had been built for government officers but private individuals had been given membership as well. They said the club would be closed, should the court give the order to do so.
"You have become involved in making money and have got distracted from your work," the CJP remarked.
Saeed Ghani summoned
The SC also summoned Sindh Labour, Human Resources and Information Minister Saeed Ghani while hearing a plea challenging the construction of 16-storey Al Bari Tower in Bahadurabad, noting that he had refused to raze illegal structures.
At the outset of the hearing, the petitioner's lawyer contended that the building was illegally constructed on a park's land despite a court notice against it.
When the CJP asked who was Al Bari Tower's builder, he named Muhammad Tofeeq and Muhammad Saeed.
He further told the court that Ghani had said he would resign from his position but not raze illegal structures.
Irked by the information, the CJP waved a photograph of the building during the hearing and questioned: "Tell [me] what's happening here? Where is Saeed Ghani?"
"He says he will resign from his position but not demolish [the buildings]," added an irate Justice Ahsan.
Addressing the Sindh advocate general, the CJP asked: "When will he (Ghani) resign from his position?"
The advocate general told the court that Ghani was not present at the hearing, and that he would inform the minister that he had been summoned by the court.
At that, the CJP admonished the official, saying that the hearing was under way and Ghani should have been attending it.
"We order [demolition] and he refuses to raze [buildings]," he continued his censure.
The court summoned Ghani and directed that a notice be served to Al Bari Tower's builders through the New Town station house officer.
Later, Ghani reached the SC's Karachi registry where he expressed ignorance of the matter related to the construction of Al Bari Tower.
He said he was there on the court's directive in a case the hearing for which had not been held.
"It may be held tomorrow or the day after," he added.