The Supreme Court came down hard on the defence secretary and head of the SBCA for trying to give it a “lollipop” in the guise of a report on their progress removing illegal constructions in Karachi.
During Thursday’s hearing at the Karachi Registry, the court chided the defence secretary and building authority chief for not implementing its order. The court had ordered the removal of all wedding halls and other commercial activities on military land in the city.
What’s the point of the law, when you don’t follow it, asked Justice Gulzar Ahmed, one of the judges hearing the case. The other judge is Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel.
Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Ikramul Haq and SBCA Director-General Iftikhar Qaimkhani were ordered to implement the court’s order immediately. The court also wants to know how much actual progress has been made in the removal of these constructions. Qaimkhani was also scolded for not removing illegal constructions in Saddar and the rest of the city.
You will go to jail from this court, the judges warned him. The judges asked him what he has done on Malir Road. How much money do you want for selling the whole city, they asked.
The attorney-general said that there was confusion on one point and asked the court for time to go over the file. However, the court said the time to look at the file is over and now it is the time to work.
The court also took notice of a traffic mess on University Road. The judges noted that a building was being constructed near Alladin Park on University Road and asked who gave approval for it to be constructed. Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar was also at the hearing and was asked who is responsible for the traffic mess. I’m also a victim of it, replied the mayor.
He informed the court that when there was a fire at a mall in Gulistan-e-Jauhar recently, issues arose because it was constructed in a residential area. Akhtar added that there are also other issues like this he faces.
“This is why you’ve held your political funeral,” replied Justice Ahmed.
The mayor said he did not have any master plan for the city. However, Qaimkhani said the SBCA has a master plan for Karachi. Present all the master plans to the court, ordered Justice Ahmed. Tell us, when and on whose orders were residential buildings converted into commercial ones, he asked.
Justice Ahmed also remarked that all the parks in the city have been named after martyrs (shaheeds). Everyone wants to become a martyr, he observed. Attorney General Anwar Masood replied that martyrs have a great status and that there are requirements before someone is declared a martyr. You mean to say that if I am killed, I won’t become a shaheed, asked Justice Ahmed, to the laughter of the court.
The SC also rejected two separate petitions against its order to knock down illegal constructions. One was filed by the owner of a wedding hall on Kalapul while the other was filed by the Water Board Officers’ Club. It ordered the authorities to continue with the demolition drive.
The court has taken notice of statements made by Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani refusing to implement the court’s order. On January 25, Ghani held a press conference where he said, “I will not take any action that will leave hundreds of people homeless”. He said if he had to implement the court order, he was ready to resign.
The court has issued him a contempt of court notice and ordered him to appear at the next hearing with an explanation.