KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the provincial government and the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) to complete within two months the entire process to estimate the cost of construction of houses for over 6,900 families rendered homeless by a demolition drive carried out along three major drains in the city.

The apex court also asked the provincial authorities to address the grievances of certain affectees after they submitted that their names had been mentioned in the verified list, but they had not been accommodated yet.

At the previous hearing, the Supreme Court had directed the chief secretary to obtain an estimate regarding the cost of construction on an 80-square-yard plot after the counsel for the affectees submitted that despite a court order, the Sindh government was getting the cost estimates from its own consultants instead of the PEC.

When a two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar took up the contempt applications against Sindh government functionaries for hearing on Monday at the apex court’s Karachi registry, the chief secretary and advocate general placed in court a copy of the letter written to the PEC to provide the estimated/average cost of construction.

On court order, LG dept writes to engineering council to seek cost of construction on 80 sq-yd plot for victims of demolition drive

The bench was informed that on April 8 (Monday), the special local government secretary had communicated to the PEC chairman to furnish average cost of construction of a house on an 80 square yards plot.

They also submitted that the requirements of construction with specification for a house on ground floor would be forwarded by the provincial government to the PEC.

Chief Secretary Asif Haider Shah said that he would make a request to the PEC to give its opinion within a period of three weeks.

The bench said that once the opinion of the estimated cost was received by the Sindh government, a copy of the same must be provided to the counsel for affectees.

The apex court also directed the PEC to call a meeting of the representatives of the Sindh government and affectees within a period of two weeks and after the meeting, a final estimated cost would be issued by the PEC.

“The entire process shall be completed within a period of two months and thereafter the matter be listed for hearing,” the bench added.

Many other people also approached the apex court and their lawyer pointed out that certain affectees, whose names were already mentioned in the verification list of Gujjar Nullah affectees, had not been accommodated.

An additional advocate general submitted that such affectees may approach the focal person to chief secretary Syed Mohsin Hussain Shah for verification and they would be accommodated if found genuine.

The bench directed the affectees to approach the focal person.

A large number of the affected people, including women, had staged protests outside the apex court building on every hearing against the government for failing to rehabilitate them despite the passage of around three years and several of them had been complaining that their homes were also demolished, but they have yet to get any compensation on the account of rental support or accommodation despite approaching the officials concerned.

The demolition drive was carried out on the orders of the Supreme Court along three major nullahs of the city in order to expand the drains.

In 2021, the apex court had ordered the provincial and local authorities for compensation and rehabilitation of the affected and displaced families.

Thereafter, in August last year, during the hearing of an application seeking contempt proceedings against CM Murad Ali Shah for not complying with the orders of the apex court, the provincial authorities had forwarded proposals that the government would release amounts to each of the affected family for purchase of land and construction according to market value of land from where affectees were dispossessed.

About the cost of construction, the standards laid down by the PEC for construction of house measuring 80 square yards, would be followed, it added.

As an alternative, the Sindh government would allot a plot measuring 80 square yards to each of such families and after handing over peaceful vacant possession of such plots, the cost of construction would also be paid to each of families in accordance with the standards set out by the PEC. The affectees and their counsel opted for the second proposal.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2024

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