‘People displaced during anti-encroachment drives to be rehabilitated within two years’

Maqbool Ahmed

25th Oct, 2021. 10:04 pm

A file photo of the Supreme Court Karachi Registry.

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Monday gave undertaking to Supreme Court of Pakistan that those dislodged from their homes during the drive initiated on the orders of apex court to remove encroachments on and around the storm-water drains in Karachi would be rehabilitated within two years.

The SC bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmad and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed on the last hearing had directed the chief minister to apprise the court within two weeks the steps that had been taken for the rehabilitation of the affectees.

When the matter came up for hearing at the Karachi registry before the same bench, it noted nothing substantial had been done in this regard. Then bench then ordered appearance of the Sindh CM before it.

The CM appeared before the bench after the court’s break and tried to raise issue of financial constraints that had been hampering rehabilitation of the affectees.

Justice Ahsan reminded the CM that the government could not simply wash its hands of the matter by saying that it did not have resources. “There are hundred ways to meet contingencies. What would happen if a calamity hits, would you leave people on their own by just saying that the government does not have resources to provide relief and rehabilitate them.”

When the CM tried to convince the court to provide funds from the amount being recovered from Bahria Town Karachi, Justice Ahsan reminded him that court had on last hearing observed that the Sindh government should not bank on funds being recovered from the property firm.

When the CM submitted that the amount being recovered from Bahria Town belonged to Sindh government, Justice Amin observed that the funds belonged to the people of Sindh as the Sindh government had already got what it wanted to get by way of exchange of land.

The CM then tried to blame the federal government for backing off its promise to provide funding under an arrangement where provincial government was to provide land and the federal government had agreed on providing funding. The chief justice interrupted him, directing him not to make political statements.

When the CM started enumerating the hurdles in rehabilitation, the chief justice asked him not to tell the court problems but lay before it solution. The CM then apprised the bench that a meeting of the provincial cabinet held on October 6 had allocated Rs1 billion for the rehabilitation of nullahs’ affectees, would progressively increase the funding and try to complete rehabilitation within two years.

The CM submitted that the provincial government was trying to keep the cost of rehabilitation just below Rs10bn because the projects costing Rs10bn or more needed Ecnec approval.

Justice Ahsan asked the CM if he was ready to give undertaking to the apex court that the rehabilitation work would be completed within two years. The CM replied in affirmative. The bench then took undertaking from him in this regard and adjourned further hearing.

SHC interim orders suspended

The SC on Monday suspended all the interim orders granted to different petitioners and plaintiffs by Sindh High Court in the matter of issuance of lease of land along storm-water drains in Karachi.

A three-judge SC bench headed by CJP Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin while hearing matters pertaining to removal of encroachments along storm-water drains was apprised by the counsel of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) that the anti-encroachment drive was being hampered by the stay orders granted by SHC in favour of the petitioners and plaintiffs claiming that they had valid lease documents.

The apex court observed that by an earlier order it had already adverted to lease granted by different government authorities.

The bench observed that the land was meant for storm-water drains to ensure unhindered flow of rainwater and not for any other purpose. The encroachments along storm-water drains have to be removed without any interruption.

The court issued notices to all such petitioners and plaintiffs who had approached SHC on issue of lease and suspended the interim orders passed in their favour.

Park encroachments

The SC also directed director general Karachi Development Authority to remove encroachments from a park in Sector 5 of New Karachi and restore it in proper shape providing all facilities necessary for recreation of the people of the neighbourhood.

The apex court observed that currently the park was in a pathetic state were sewage had accumulated and a portion of it had been encroached upon.

The apex court also issued notice to a builder who was raising multistoried apartment building on a portion of a plot reserved for a park in Bahdur Yar Jang Cooperative Housing Society in Bahadurabad. The bench also issued notice to Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) for approving building plan.

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