KARACHI: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday allowed 15 more days to city authorities to clear encroachments all over Karachi.
The CJP, who heard cases in the Supreme Court (SC) Karachi Registry, told Additional Inspector General (AIG) Amir Sheikh — the city’s police chief — that since a court order to clear encroachments was already present, the authorities did not need anyone’s permission to launch a citywide operation.
The AIG assured the court that he was “ready to assist in whatever way [police] can”.
Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar told the court that the authorities had cleared “up to 70 per cent of the Empress Market”. The chief justice, however, was not satisfied and said that the authorities must clear surrounding areas as well.
The mayor pointed out that many welfare organisations serve lunches and dinners to the poor and homeless on footpaths. “Should we clear them too?” he asked. The CJP told the mayor to provide welfare organisations alternative locations where they could feed the poor. At this, Akhtar replied that he does not have the magisterial powers to do so.
Advocate Masroor, a senior lawyer, also directed the court’s attention to encroachments in the North Nazimabad area of Karachi, which, he said, had been “sold off” by MQM leaders Babar Ghauri and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui.
At this, the mayor said that “[to pursue] Babar Ghauri, we will have to go abroad”.
The court’s instructions come days after Karachi police resorted to using water cannons to disperse residents of Pakistan Quarters, who were protesting against ‘forced eviction’, that was in line with the apex court’s orders. Following the protest, the SC had extended the eviction deadline by two months.
Also on Saturday, another SC judge directed provincial and city authorities to remove all encroachments from public parks across Karachi as soon as possible.
Justice Gulzar Ahmed issued the instructions while chairing a high-level meeting regarding encroachments on nearly 35,000 welfare plots in the metropolis. The meeting held at SC’s Karachi registry was attended by the Sindh chief secretary, director general of Karachi Development Authority and the municipal commissioner of Karachi.
“All departments will have to play an active role to restore the old face of Karachi,” Justice Ahmed was quoted as saying during the meeting.
The Sindh chief secretary told reporters it had been agreed during the meeting that steps should be taken to beautify the city. “[We] have assured the Supreme Court that the Sindh government and all departments will fully cooperate in this regard,” he added.
According to the secretary, a plan of action has been decided to remove encroachments from parks.