The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the retrieval of land belonging to Kidney Hill Park in Karachi and directed for the demolition of all illegal constructions on the land including a mosque, a shrine and a graveyard.

The kidney-shaped hilly area was declared a park in the early 1960s but the Overseas Pakistanis Co-operative Housing Society claimed that it was allotted to it by the Karachi Development Authority since it merged into the formerly city district government (now KMC).

The dispute was litigated for decades without any work on the proposed public park till a compromise was reached between the claimant society and the city district government in the Supreme Court in 2006. The proceedings were joined by the non-governmental organisation, Shehri-Citizens for Better Environment, which pressed for maintaining the amenity status of the plot in the public interest.

Under the compromise, the erstwhile CDGK was given 20 acres for laying a park while 40 acres were allocated to the society for allotting residential plots to its members. One acre was to remain with the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, which earlier had eight acres for constructing a reservoir.

Shehri, however, challenged the compromise in the Sindh High Court, saying the CDGK and the housing society could not reach a settlement in derogation of the law. It said the compromise was reached behind its back though it was a bona fide party to the dispute. The case is now being heard by the Supreme Court in a follow-up to its earlier verdicts for ridding the city of unauthorised constructions.

In its hearing today, the court initiated proceedings of the case with Shehri CBE, pointing out the construction of Al-Fateh Mosque was underway on the land meant for the park, saying the master plan also didn't have any space reserved for the mosque.

The mosque administration had filed a review petition, seeking court orders to protect the worship place from being razed which is being constructed for the second time after it was previously demolished.

Khawaja Shams, the counsel representing the mosque, contended that the land was obtained from the KMC through auction. The lawyer also accused Assistant Commissioner Asma Batool of permitting the construction of another mosque and a shrine close to Al-Fateh Mosque to fuel sectarianism.

The counsel recalled that the court had earlier directed demarcation of the land and for the mosque not to be razed.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed directed that no one should be stopped from offering prayers at any spot in the park and sought a report from Karachi commissioner into the case in the next hearing.

The court also observed that the KMC had no authority to issue a permit for the construction of a mosque and rejected the review plea filed by the mosque administration. The court then directed authorities to return the land to the KMC.

The chief justice expressed resentment at the assistant commissioner and asked: "What would you do if a grave is dug up just outside your home?"

The mosque's counsel claimed that Batool had also ordered halting the demolition work of the Nasla Tower.

A group of women, who were present in the courtroom, alleged that Batool blackmailed them in connivance with her husband, who was hand in gloves with a mukhtiarkar (revenue officer) to get maps approved.

The chief justice warned the officer that she could lose her job if she didn't shun the alleged malpractices.

"These people have been imposed on us and they are unwilling to work," remarked Justice Amin.

After hearing arguments from all the parties concerned, the top court ordered the deployment of armed security guards in the park [to prevent any unauthorised construction from taking place].

Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab informed the court that more than 100,000 trees had been planted in the park and urged the chief justice to visit the facility to observe its transformation.

Amber Alibhai of Shehri also advised the top judge to spare time to make it to the park. Justice Gulzar responded: "I wish to, but just don't have the time".

The hearing of the case was adjourned till the next session.

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