The recent anti-encroachment drive across the city has left Karachiites, especially those affected, tensed.
At a hearing on Tuesday of this case at the Supreme Court (SC) Karachi Registry, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian (CJP) Saqib Nisar directed that no houses be destroyed during the ongoing anti-encroachment drive.
He was hearing review petitions filed by various parties, including the Sindh government, against SC’s earlier order on encroachments.
“Our directions were clear – to make the Empress Market area a model for Karachi,” said Justice Nisar.
He questioned how the apex court had ruined the law and order situation of Karachi and stated that rehabilitation of displaced people and providing alternative arrangements was the responsibility of the government.
“The encroachments are gone but the issue of alternative arrangements remains,” the top judge said.
Expressing displeasure over the failure of Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar to show up on time, Justice Nasir remarked, “Everyone else managed to come. Did he not know he had to attend a SC hearing?”
The advocate-general reasoned that he [Akhtar] may have been running late due to traffic.
The CJP informed that the mayor had initiated the encroachment drive around Empress Market on his own before the apex court’s order.
He said it was clear that encroachments were to be removed from footpaths and streets so pedestrians could have their rights.
“Protests erupted when we ordered to vacate government quarters,” he remarked referring to an earlier case relating to illegal occupation of government houses. Reacting to the protests, the CJP shared that he received a call from the governor saying Karachi’s law and order situation had been disrupted.
“Should we then let people occupy houses illegally?” he asked.
He firmly remarked that illegal buildings and occupation of land will not be tolerated by the SC.
“No one has stopped you, continue the anti-encroachment drive,” the CJP told Akhtar.
“Should we bow down to the land mafia?” Justice Nisar commented.
The top judge made it clear that the law must be implemented. To this, Mayor Akhtar said, “We are implementing the law, but houses should not be destroyed.”
CJP Nisar replied that the apex court never issued orders to raze houses. “If you’re destroying houses on your own, it is not the SC’s problem,” he said.