Negligence, connivance or both on the part of successive governments have led the building mafia to occupy state land, construct shanties and sell them to the urban poor leading to the creation of slums. The more enterprising conmen occupied state land in choice localities, built multistoried luxury housing units and sold them to gullible middle class buyers. Despite periodic attempts to reclaim the state land, slums as well as high rise structures on busy roads have continued to appear in big cities, particularly in Karachi.
More recently the Supreme Court warned that encroachments and occupation of state land was not acceptable. Following the orders, the Karachi administration gave the squatters a deadline and when it ended bulldozed the slums leaving thousands homeless. The Supreme Court also ordered the demolition of the 15-storey Nasla Tower for encroaching on a city area meant for a service road. A similar order was issued against the under-construction Tejori Heights which was being built on railway land.
It is unfortunate that the malaise has crept into a highly disciplined force also. Hopefully a timely notice by the judiciary would discourage its spread. Last week the IHC declared illegal the Navy’s sailing club and farmhouses constructed on the National Park land and ordered their demolition. It also issued directions to initiate criminal proceedings against a former naval chief and other officials for approving the illegal constructions. On Tuesday the Court ordered the Capital authorities to seal off Monal Restaurant and take control of the Margalla Greens Golf Club built on encroached land, also declaring illegal the military’s claim to 8,000 acres of the Margalla Hills National Park. The Court ordered that the National Park is a protected area and there can be no activity in it.
As the verdict put it, illegal occupation of chunks of National Park and construction of structures there compromise the professionalism, integrity and cohesion of the Armed Forces while on the other they weaken the civilian institutions. What is more these acts damage the relationship of the Armed Forces with the people and the society. It would be anomalous and unjust to punish one category of squatters while rewarding the other. As the verdict put it, “the armed forces should not be controversial in any way. It is not in the public interest.”