KARACHI.: Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed has termed the “revenue board, Sindh Building Control Authority, Karachi Municipal Corporation, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board” and other departments “corrupt” while hearing a case pertaining to removal of encroachments for the revival of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR).
Last month, the apex court had directed the federal and provincial governments to make the KCR operational within six months and warned that the prime minister and the Sindh chief minister could face contempt proceedings if its orders were not followed.
A three-member bench – headed by Chief Justice Gulzar and comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah – hearing the case at the Supreme Court Karachi Registry on Friday, remarked, “None of them [departments] are working.”
The chief justice ordered restoring 1995’s circular railway as well as continuing with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects and sought a progress report from Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin, who informed the court that progress has been made.
The top judge asked Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan what the federal government was doing. Khan replied, “The CPEC projects are under way and the federal government is busy with them.”
Advocate Faisal Siddiqi apprised the court that hundreds of residents had been removed for the revival of KCR but none of them had been provided an alternative accommodation.
The chief justice remarked that those who had been removed were illegal occupants. “It’s the government’s job to settle them.” Advocate Siddiqi maintained that only the houses of the “destitute are being razed”.
Justice Gulzar remarked that 90% of Karachi’s population is poor and the court has ordered indiscriminate action against encroachers. “Can you fathom how cruel these people are? They have built buildings on the land considering them to be owned by their fathers,” he remarked.
Justice Faisal Arab remarked that who will charge the builders for these lands. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah asked that what should be razed first if there is a 10-storey building and a slum beside it.
The chief justice remarked, “Don’t worry because no one will be spared. Every illegal construction will be razed.” He reminded Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani of taking indiscriminate action. The commissioner maintained that there was no discrimination. “Illegal petrol pumps, plazas and every such structure is being demolished.”
Chief Justice Gulzar asked about housing societies on railways’ land. Advocate General Talibuddin maintained that those were Railway Department’s own societies.
The top judge remarked that who allowed the railways department to build societies for itself. Talibuddin said, “The Karachi mass transit plan has been prepared while Green Line and Orange Line projects will be completed soon.
Work on other projects is ongoing with the assistance of World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”
Chief Justice Gulzar expressed dismay over the Karachi mass transit plan. “Nothing can be seen clearly in this plan. The work done is the same as this plan, nothing can be seen. Why can’t you understand what type of work needs to be done in Karachi,” he remarked, adding that Karachi “needs an efficient and effective plan”.
Talibuddin maintained that the issues of Karachi would be resolved with the Karachi mass transit plan.
The chief justice asked about the Green Line project. Officials informed the court that work on the project started three years ago. Justice Gulzar asked, “Why it is taking so long. The projects of whole of Asia can be completed in three years. What is the reason that work doesn’t complete on time?”
The officials claimed that the Green Line project would be completed by next year. “Why next year? Why not this? You can go and see right now that nothing is being done,” an irked chief justice remarked. “You pay money to the contractors only when you get commission. Do you even love this country?
People are dying around you and you are doing nothing.” Referring to the building collapse in Rizvia Society, Justice Gulzar remarked that counting of casualties has just begun.
“Brace yourselves for what’s going to happen next in Karachi. God forbid, what if the whole Karachi collapses. “Do you have any idea that Keamari Bridge is going to collapse. Keamari will be cut off from Karachi if that happens.”
The top judge told Advocate General Talibuddin that he was an honest man but could not make people work. “Sorry to say but nothing is happening. Everyone is working but the work is present only on papers,” he remarked, citing the dilapidated condition of Shaheed-e-Millat Road, Kashmir Road and Nazimabad.
“University Road has been ruined … the most beautiful road has been ruined,” the chief justice lamented, adding that the buses of 1955 were operating in Karachi.
Advocate General Talibuddin said, “We will prove ourselves by completing the work within two years.” The CJ remarked that 16 people were killed in a building collapse but no one even cared. “Does anyone take responsibility for these casualties?”
Justice Sajjad Ali Shah remarked that multiple-storey buildings are constructed on small pieces of land.
Talibuddin maintained that action has been taken against the corrupt officials. Justice Shah remarked that the court had sought complete record of illegal constructions, “what has been done in this regard”.
Talibuddin maintained that the report has been prepared. The court adjourned the proceedings until March 26.