–Apex court directs city admin not to demolish homes in operation
–Mayor Waseem Akhtar claims no houses have been razed by city officials
KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday directed the city administration not to demolish houses during the anti-encroachment drive in the provincial capital as it rejected a request to halt the operation.
The directive was made as Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar heard review petitions filed by a number of parties against the Supreme Court’s previous directives to clear encroachments around Empress Market.
The Sindh government was among the parties that had filed a petition over the matter.
Sindh Advocate General Salman Taalibuddin urged the apex court to review the previous directive, arguing that extending the anti-encroachment drive to other parts of the metropolis faced reservations.
In response, CJP Nisar said that the previous orders only dealt with clearing footpaths and streets around the market.
“The directive to remove encroachments from the footpaths and streets was clear,” he said.
“We wanted pedestrians to also have some rights while walking on the streets. We were concerned about Karachi’s law and order situation at that time as well,” he added.
“How did the Supreme Court ruin the law and order situation in Karachi?” he inquired.
“What is our link to this? Rehabilitation of displaced people and making alternative arrangements for them is the job of the government,” the top judge observed.
“We had not passed any order at the time, when the mayor began working of his own accord,” he added while remarking in reference to the mayor’s decision to initiate the drive.
“The order to clear footpaths and roads was clear. There was chaos following our order but we cannot end the writ of the state if people start protesting. Should we leave these illegal encroachers? People have illegally occupied official residences.”
“We want to make Karachi better but your vested interests are creating hurdles,” he remarked.
The Sindh advocate general informed the court that encroachments around the historical market had been cleared.
“We can’t now order that the area be re-encroached,” CJP Nisar remarked in response.
Taalbuddin argued that the anti-encroachment drive was leading to unemployment.
“Demolishing one shop takes away the livelihood of a man,” he argued.
“Bar the Karachi mayor from carrying out the anti-encroachment drive for four weeks. The mayor is speedily razing encroachments,” Taalbudin argued.
“Why should we stop him? You both should sit together and decide,” CJP Nisar answered.
“What will happen now is the Sindh government’s responsibility. We have not stopped anyone from making alternative arrangements,” he further remarked.
“If they want to give the affectees an alternative venue for their shops, they should do it. When did we stop them?” he inquired.
The top judge then directed the Karachi mayor, provincial and federal governments to submit a plan on Wednesday for the rehabilitation of relocation of shops in the market that were destroyed in the drive.
‘WON’T DESTROY HOMES’:
While speaking to media outside the Karachi Registry of the apex court, Akthar said that “we have not demolished any houses and neither will we let anyone raze them. This is a wrong impression”.
“The court has given time to Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), federal and Sindh government to sit together and submit a report by 8am tomorrow so that more instructions can be issued,” he added.
“An appeal was made by the government to demolish houses. My mandate is to remove encroachments from drains and roads, not to demolish houses.”
“Our campaign against encroachments will continue. We will eliminate land mafia from Karachi and restore the city to its original state,” he explained.
“Parks are a public place, not a place for businesses. Encroachments would be removed from roads, footpaths and parks.”