KARACHI, March 28: For more than a quarter of century, during which almost a dozen governments came and went the Sindh Police has successfully withstood all moral, legal and political pressures to vacate an occupied plot of over 5 acres lying just adjacent to Expo - 2007 being inaugurated by the highest authority of the country on Thursday.
“Imagine what image of Pakistan will be carried by the foreign visitors to the Expo when they will come to know that a law enforcing agency in Pakistan is occupying a property owned by the other government department for last more than 25 years and all the successive governments proved helpless to get it vacated,” remarked an official of the Trade Development Authority (TDAP).
The government expects more than a thousand foreign visitors to the Expo.
“This message of illegal occupation by a law enforcing agency on the property of a government service provider agency will spread to all parts of the world,” he sarcastically remarked.
A police station named after Aziz Bhatti Shaheed — that lies in the immediate vicinity of Expo-2007 is a living monument of how the might becomes right and occupation becomes ownership in Pakistan. The TDAP had taken up the restoration to its ownership of this more than five acre plot with the Sindh government in several meetings without any success.
One such last meeting was to be held on Tuesday with the Sindh Governor and the provincial home department. But the Sindh government functionaries had some more pressing engagements and the meeting was put off indefinitely, an official source disclosed.“The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is now apparently tired after years long real battles with the police and the law enforcing agencies and is now preferring to look other way,” another official remarked who disclosed that nothing had come out from several round of meetings with the government in last four years.
“The chief minister and his revenue minister, who raided a number of farm houses near Gadap and demolished structures, has never bothered to look at this place near the Civic Centre,” he complained. .
Faisal Saleh Hayat, a PPP turncoat and one of the federal ministers in President Musharaf’s mega-size cabinet is being held responsible for the police occupation of this land.
In 1989 when police was occupying a whole 57 acres of land given to the Export Promotion Bureau to organise exhibitions, Mr Faisal Saleh Hayat as a federal commerce minister of the PPP government decided to give 10 per cent of the land to police as a bargain to get back 50 acres of land.
This 57 acres of land in the close vicinity of now one of the busiest squares -- Hasan Square and Civic Centre -- was given to the Export Promotion Bureau in early sixties to organise international exhibitions. It is the same place where three international exhibitions were organised in 1961, 1962 and 1963. In 1963 exhibition, a mad policeman went berserk and fired indiscriminately in the exhibition and killed many persons.
No exhibitions were held at this place for several years till 1984 when the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry organised an industrial fair. It proved to be a big scandal in which the FPCCI dismissed a number of its employees but no businessman was punished.
This scam resulted in non payment of the bill given by Karachi Development Authority (KDA) to recover its amount; invested in developing logistics of the exhibition.
Then it was Martial Law Administrator — General Jehandad Khan, who issued a verbal order to cancel the allotment order of the land in the name of EPB. The EPB had nothing to do with the dispute between the FPCCI and the KDA. The area sub divisional magistrate issued a three line order and the allotment was cancelled.
During 1984 the police entered and grabbed 57 acres of land. It robbed the exhibition stalls of the costly fixtures and fittings. In the following years a Jilani housing society was formed and policeman were given residential plots at this place.
No investigations were ever held as to how a housing scheme was set up on a land that was given to Export Promotion Bureau and it was never in the name of Sindh police.
The political government restored after the death of Zia ul Haq in 1988, revived the issue of ownership of 57 acres of land to the Export Promotion Bureau. In 1989, Faisal Saleh Hayat decided to offer 10 per cent of 57 acres of land to the Sindh police to get it vacated.
It did not work and in 1993 the Nawaz Sharif government gave Rs15 million to police for getting the plot vacated. The payment of ransom money also failed to restore the ownership of this place to the Export Promotion Bureau.
Finally it was sometimes in 1997 and 1998 that Export Promotion Bureau managed to get 50 acres of land on which it constructed an exhibition complex. Since then several exhibitions have been organised. But the Bureau maintained its claim of getting more than five acres of land. The TDAP, as a successor to the bureau is maintaining its claim and now wants the land back.