Residents of settlements along the Orangi and Gujjar nullahs protest outside the SC’s Karachi registry on Monday against the demolition of their homes while security personnel stand alert.—PPI
KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Monday expressed serious resentment on Pakistan Railways (PR) over the recent accidents and reported plans to sell its land in Sindh and directed the federal government to take measures for its improvement.
The apex court ruled that the railways land would not be allowed to be leased out or transferred to any private person or employees, but only to be used for operational purposes.
A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed also took exception to a statement of Railways Minister Azam Swati after the recent Ghotki train accident in which he said he was ready to resign if it would cover the losses and casualties in the accident.
Terming it an irresponsible statement aimed at discouraging passengers, the CJP said that the prime minister should look into it.
Sindh govt, SBCA, cantt boards earn SC’s ire; plea against demolition of houses along Gujjar, Orangi nullahs dismissed
The bench also comprising Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin directed the attorney general to file a report in this regard on June 16.
The apex court was informed that 82 per cent tracks of railways were in a dilapidated condition and needed urgent attention as the Main Line-I (ML-I) project, to be executed by China under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), would take many years to complete.
The chief justice deplored that over 65 passengers had lost their lives and more than 100 were injured in the tragic accident, but the minister and railways secretary remained unmoved.
While expressing displeasure over the functioning of the PR, the CJP said that they recently heard a case regarding a train accident in Quetta and only a gatekeeper was held responsible for it and was transferred as punishment.
He remarked that the public transport was running on subsidies across the world, but apparently the railways officials were focusing on its land to sell it instead of improving its service.
During the proceedings, the bench was informed that the railways were reportedly planning to sell its land in Sindh and discussions were held to promulgate an ordinance in this regard.
The CJP said that the apex court would strike down any such move and observed that PR employees had encroached upon almost half of the PR lands on the pretext of housing societies.
The bench noted that the PR was approaching the apex court for removal of encroachments on its land, but on the other hand it seemed that the railways officials were evolving a mechanism to sell its land.
The CJP said not an inch of PR land would be allowed to be sold.
It questioned the manner in which PR’s affair were running and questioned the working of its officials asking the federal government to take measures to improve railways and ensure safety of passengers.
‘Sindh govt being run from Canada’
The bench also came down hard on the Sindh government over unauthorised constructions and encroachments on public spaces and ordered it to get vacated 36,000 amenity plots encroached upon in the city.
The apex court expressed serious resentment on authorities of cantonment boards for encroachments on roads and streets as well as illegal constructions in their jurisdictions.
The CJP remarked that the provincial government was being run from Canada by one Younus Memon.
He further said that the Sindh Building Control Authority was allowing unauthorised constructions against bribes.
The chief justice made these remakes during the hearing of a matter about a 15-storey building, known as Nasla Tower, built on a plot reportedly reserved for a service road and the officials concerned were trying to justify it.
He deplored that fake reports were being produced in court and backdated documents were being prepared, adding that development activities were taking place across the country except in Sindh.
Addressing Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin, the CJP said what his government was doing as it was the responsibility of the provincial government to take action against such elements.
The CJP said that provincial governments had become more powerful after the devolution of powers, but they could not even clear a drain in the city during the last two years.
Justice Ahsan said that according to a survey, Karachi was among the 10 worst cities of the world.
The CJP asked the advocate general to inquire from the provincial government about its direction and plans and advise it.
Land given to cantt boards not for commercial activities
The bench also expressed displeasure over cantonment and military land director Adil Rafi Siddiqui for encroachments on roads and streets of Defence Housing Authority and unauthorised constructions on Chaudhry Khaliq-uz-Zaman Road.
The CJP asked him that the land had not been allotted for commercial activities, but only for cantonment purposes.
The commercial plazas are being built in DHA and there was no parking space, he said, adding that DHA Phase-I’s streets were being encroached by a private hospital.
The bench directed Mr Siddiqui to file a report.
The CJP remarked that the Sindh government had launched the Sindh Education Reform Programme in 2014 and allocated a huge amount, but there was no fruitful outcome while the project of water purification also met the same fate as despite spending billions of rupees it was hard to find RO plants and people of Tharparkar were still facing acute shortage of potable water.
The CJP also directed the senior director of the anti-encroachment department to remove encroachments from 36,000 amenity plots across the city and said that apex court had passed several orders in this regard in the past, but they were still not complied with.
Removal of Pavilion End Club ordered
The bench directed the local administration to remove the Pavilion End Club and end all commercial activities on the premises of the Aladdin amusement park in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.
It observed that the Aladdin park was converted into the Pavilion End Club and membership was being offered against fees along with other commercial activities.
It directed the Karachi administrator to immediately remove the club and other commercial activities on the premises of park and file a compliance report within two days.
The apex court further asked the administrator to develop the premises along with an adjacent plot, from where illegal construction was recently removed, into a park/green belt.
The bench further issued directives to the city administration to remove the KDA Officers’ Club, a swimming pool and tennis court from a plot on Kashmir Road and open the land/playground for children.
The bench also directed the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) chairman and project director of the Greater Karachi Water Supply Scheme, commonly known as K-IV, to appear on June 16 after provincial officials said that the project had been taken over by the federal authorities.
Plea of Gujjar, Orangi nullahs affectees dismissed
The bench also dismissed an application of a number of people affected during the anti-encroachment operation for widening the Gujjar and Orangi nullahs and directed the authorities to continue the operation.
The lawyer for the applicants argued that their leased prosperities were being demolished and proper compensation had also not been offered.
The counsel submitted that the provincial and local authorities had planned to construct 30-foot-wide roads on both the banks of the nullahs without the permission of the apex court.
However, the advocate general submitted that the government was providing Rs20,000 per month rent for two years to the affected families and they would also provide accommodations in the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme.
He further submitted that the process of construction of roads on both the sides of the nullahs was being planned and designed under the supervision of the National Disaster Management Authority after consulting NED University of Engineering and Technology.
The chief justice observed that the land around nullahs could not be leased out and the court had already passed an order about compensation and rehabilitation.
Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2021