Published On: Fri, May 10th, 2019
Published in Category: Court News / Karachi / Supreme Court

SC takes defence secretary to task over DHA’s allotment of state land to private entities in Karachi

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KARACHI: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday took exception to the Defence Housing Authority’s handing over of state land in Karachi to private entities, and ordered the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) to ensure implementation of its January directive ordering the city-wide demolition of illegal constructions.

A two-member bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, resumed hearing the case pertaining to illegal constructions in the megalopolis at the apex court’s Karachi registry.

The court in January had issued a set of directives to authorities regarding the demolishing of illegal constructions, restoration of the city to its 40-year-old state, and for razing buildings that are in violation of the original master plan.

Secretary Defence Lieutenant General (retd) Ikramul Haq, SBCA Director General Iftikhar Qaimkhani, Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar, Senior Superintendent Police Suhai Aziz Talpur, and representatives from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board and other institutions were present at the Karachi registry for today’s hearing.

The Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan and secretary defence appeared before the bench and submitted a report on implementation to the court, which Justice Ahmed rejected, terming it “unsatisfactory” and “eyewash”.

Although the attorney general contended that only a couple of points had not been implemented, Justice Ahmed turned to the defence secretary and quizzed him over why the court order had not been implemented.

Meanwhile the court held that the issue was not that one point had not been implemented but that the entire court order was not implemented, and subsequently rejected review pleas filed by the Cantonment Board and others.

“The defence ministry is not acting on court orders,” Justice Ahmed observed. “Should we shut down the Supreme Court? What is the purpose of the Supreme Court then?” he questioned. “Should it be shut?”

“You say that court orders were acted upon,” the judge said. “Why, then, did everyone ignore such a large marriage hall in the Pakistan Air Force?”

“You need to first implement the court’s orders,” the judge said, adding: “The common man wants encroachments to first be removed from Cantonment areas.”

“If the government wished, all the bulldozers would be ready in five minutes,” he said.

The judge also expressed displeasure with Pakistan International Airlines, which had yet to raze a marriage hall that it was supposed to.

“We haven’t razed the marriage halls yet, but we have issued a notice for it,” an official told the court, to which the judge responded that the company should eliminate its illegal constructions and marriage halls today.

“You don’t know how to manage your airplanes, but you have now come to start building marriage halls,” the judge remarked.

The court also raised the question of whether the Army has the authority to allot state land. The attorney general responded that the Army is not benefiting from this, to which the judge retorted, “We don’t know anything about this, nor do we have any record of this.”

“In Karachi, all parks and playgrounds have been taken over and named after martyrs,” the judge said. “We seem to be right on top when it comes to martyrs. Who knows, maybe even I will become a martyr or be killed.”

The attorney general responded saying that although martyrs are afforded a high status, there are also a number of terms and conditions that must be fulfilled to become a martyr.

“Do you mean to say I will not be able to become a martyr?” the judge remarked. “We were born to be martyred.”

“You thought we would accept your report just like that,” the judge remarked. “Here, take this report and sign it yourself – you have simply gotten a paper pusher to sign on it and submitted it,” he told the attorney general.

“You are submitting this report as a lollipop,” the judge remarked, to which the attorney general said “it is a report on actions taken as per the court’s directives”.

Justice Ahmed turned his attention back to the defence secretary and wondered if he was not acting on the court’s orders because he enjoyed the defence ministry’s support.

“The Defence Housing Authority is a real piece of work,” Justice Ahmed remarked, adding that state land in Karachi had been handed over to private parties by the military.

“If you have no need for the land, return it to the federal government,” the judge said to the attorney general.

Rasheed A. Razvi, the lawyer for Global Marquees, told the court that there was no historical precedent of an army returning a piece of land to the government.

“Let us make the history today, then” Justice Ahmed asserted. He asked why the military had handed over nine acres of public land to a private party.

“Who signed the deal?” he asked, to which the attorney general replied that a retired colonel had signed off on the deal, as the services of retired armed forces’ personnel could be reinstated for such projects.

Meanwhile the judge also expressed his displeasure with the SBCA DG Qaimkhani, who he warned would go straight to jail from the court’s premises.

“We had ordered the complete removal of illegal encroachments and settlements from Karachi. What happened? Where has progress reached?” the court asked Qaimkhani. “What happened to the two illegal buildings in front of BBQ Tonight?” the court asked.

Qaimkhani responded that there is a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry ongoing against one of the buildings. “What NAB? NAB who? Is NAB above the Supreme Court?” the court remarked.

The bench noted that the removal of illegal encroachments was a court order and should be followed.

“There are eight-storey buildings, often built in places like Punjab Colony and Delhi Colony, that have neither water lines nor a lift,” Justice Ahmed pointed out.

The court observed that the entire Saddar area, including Zainab Market, was full of unlawful parking areas.

SBCA DG Qaimkhani assured the court that it would conduct an operation in Saddar in the future.

“You haven’t done anything,” Justice Ahmed told Qaimkhani. “I go to Saddar every day, I can see the unlawful parking over there.”

The court questioned when the SBCA director general would “wake up” and conduct an operation in the area, and directed him to remove all illegal encroachments from the entire city.

“We had already passed an order on January 22 to remove all encroachments from the city,” the judge stated. “Why should we grant a further extension for implementation?”

“We will need to see how much time is necessary for implementation,” the attorney general interjected, but was quickly silenced by the judge.

“Attorney general sahab, please remain silent. Let us get done with the defence secretary first,” Justice Ahmed said.

He returned his attention to the defence secretary, and asked Ikramul Haq why he wanted more time for implementation of the court’s orders.

Haq told the judge that only two points in the court’s previous order had not been implemented.

“You don’t know anything because you remain in Islamabad,” Justice Ahmed remarked. “What would you know? You just remain in your comfort zone.”

“Over here [in Karachi], all the state’s land is in the control of private entities,” the judge added.

The Supreme Court also expressed displeasure over the digging up of University Road.

“It was carpeted one year ago. Why was it dug up again?” Justice Ahmed asked. “What is the problem with you people? Hundreds of thousands of citizens are being affected by this,” the judge pointed out.

“Karachi Electric is laying an underground cable,” the lawyer for municipal services told the court.

“Why did K-Electric not think of this before?” Justice Ahmed questioned.

“Who does the plaza next to Aladdin Park belong to, and on whose land is it being built? How many plazas are being built currently, and how many keep on being built?” asked Justice Ahmed, observing that the park was being used for commercial purposes.

“You did not stop them from getting rid of the drive-in cinema,” Justice Ahmed told the officials in court. “There will be such a massive plaza there now that you won’t even be able to breathe,” he said.

Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar told the court that when there had been a fire in a mall in Johar, the residents faced numerous difficulties. “I also face such difficulties,” the mayor said. “That is why you have taken out a funeral procession for your politics,” the judge remarked

Justice Ahmed then turned to the DG KDA. “What have you turned Malir Road into?” “You have sold the entire city. How much more money do you want?” he asked. “You’ve purchased properties in Dubai and London, but you can’t live there, eat the food there, or bring the weather from there here,” the judge said.

“Have you seen Tariq Road? All the garbage is being dumped there,” Justice Ahmed said. “No plaza parking area has been constructed there.” “It takes three hours to leave the city,” the judge pointed out. “Karachi has not been able to reach the standard of a megacity,” he asserted. “The road system has been destroyed. From 1950 till now, all master plans for the city should be submitted to the court,” he directed.

The DG SBCA and the mayor both denied having any master plans in their possession. The judge ordered that it must be specified which changes were made to the master plan and by whom, and which residential buildings were commercialised and when.

“[I] feel like crying when I see Karachi,” Justice Ahmed said. “It seems that when the situation goes beyond the limits of peoples’ endurance, there will be great discord here.”

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