KARACHI: Terming a report published in Dawn about its recent order “factually inaccurate and misleading”, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has said its April 25 order “does not direct the removal of street hawkers”.

A detailed rejoinder sent by the registrar of the apex court was in reference to a ‘comment’ piece, ‘The CJP and Karachi hawkers’, published in the newspaper in its edition of May 6.

While pointing at certain factual inaccuracies in the article, the letter states that what is fundamentally wrong and contrary to the record is to categorise the order of April 25, 2024 as ‘not dissimilar from the order issued by then-CJP Justice Gulzar Ahmed’, which had directed buildings to be demolished. “The order dated 25 April 2024 does not do this,” says the SC letter.

In the letter sent to Dawn, the SC registrar has also highlighted certain portions of the April 25 order about ‘encroachments’, ‘containers’ and ‘trees’.

Regarding the issue of ‘encroachments’, the SC order states: “Whilst encroachments by citizens are demolished, it is unfortunately noted that encroachments on public roads and pavements are made by those paid out of the public exchequer. Occupants of properties also assume that the pavement running in front of their property is theirs, to do with it as they please. Generators are also installed thereon. Pavements are for the use of the public; access thereto and use thereof cannot be prevented or restricted.”

The order further says: “Everyone, including the provincial and federal governments, and all those under them must abide by the law and cannot encroach upon public roads and pavements nor can block them which may stop or restrict public use thereof.”

According to the order, citizens must not be inconvenienced as “those paid out of the public exchequer serve the people, and not vice versa”.

While referring to observations of the additional attorney-general for Pakistan and the advocate general for Sindh regarding the placement of certain barriers for protection against terrorist attacks, the SC order states: “We are mindful of the security concerns and the same can be met by placing the barriers within the premises.”

Regarding its implementation, the SC order directs all the provincial governments, as well as the federal government, to clear public roads and pavements of all encroachments from all over the country within three days, “failing which the same should be demolished/removed by the relevant authority and the cost incurred thereon shall be recovered from those who encroached thereon”.

In regard to the buildings in official use, the SC order states: “The amount shall be recovered from the pay of the senior most official in occupation of the property/building in front of which runs the pavement on which barriers or other restrictions preventing public use thereof are place.”

The SC order also instructs the government to place advertisements in newspapers informing the public of this order, and to ask the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to direct their licensees to broadcast it as a free public service message.

The SC registrar’s letter also mentions certain excerpts from the SC order regarding the shipping containers that used by the authorities from time to time for security purposes, but are left on the roadsides or on pavements, and instructed that this practice needs to be stopped.

It also observed that there was a need to line the roads with trees in order to control pollution and counter effects of climate change.

While referring to the detailed excerpts on the issue of encroachments, the registrar’s letter states that the SC order “does not direct the removal of street hawkers”, describing the headline of the newspaper article as “wholly inaccurate and misleading”.

At the same time, the SC registrar’s letter points out that in the newspaper article there were certain factual inaccuracies like the CJP Qazi Faez Isa’s name was misspelled, and that the period when Justice Gulzar Ahmed was the CJP, and the year in which he passed order about Karachi, were incorrect.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2024

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