KARACHI: The Pakistan Railways (PR) is gearing up to launch a “grand operation” on Monday for the permanent and abiding removal of illegal encroachments along the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) tracks.
Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed, while chairing a meeting at the apex court’s Karachi registry, said that the KCR had been lying dormant since the past two decades, therefore, the encroachments from railway lines must be cleared right away.
The meeting was attended by senior officials including Karachi Development Authority (KDA) Director General (DG) Sami Siddiqui and Municipal Commissioner Dr Saifur Rehman.
The acting CJP said that work on the KCR’s could only and immediately begin once the land is free of encroachments.
During the meeting, KDA officials submitted a report on the ongoing anti-encroachment drive, besides presenting past maps and images of the city to the acting chief justice.
On the occasion, Justice Gulzar pointed out encroachments on different lakes and parks in the city. In addition to issuing directives to continue the drive uninterrupted, the acting CJP also ordered to restore old parks and lakes. He also pointed out the illegal occupation of ‘Cheel Kothi’ in the city’s PECHS area and ordered its recovery as well.
The acting chief justice directed for restoring the city to the condition it was in 30 years ago, warning that no hurdle would be tolerated in the way of the anti-encroachment drive and that he would personally see what action was taken against land mafia, adding that he wanted to see a clean and green Karachi.
Expressing his displeasure with Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) officials, the acting chief justice said that Karachi would not have been in the state it is today if they had fulfilled their duties.
“You acted as facilitators in illegal occupation of lands in the city,” he remarked.
Railways officials said they had launched a clean-up drive on the orders of the apex court and “will ensure removal of all encroachments.”
Earlier last week, the acting chief justice had directed the city’s deputy commissioners to oversee the removal of encroachments hindering KCR’s path after the divisional superintendent of PR informed him that illegal encroachments were a core issue in KCR’s revival.
The KCR has a long, sad and puzzling history, both before and since it virtually ceased to operate in 1999. Meanwhile, the city’s population has grown rapidly, swollen by a high birth rate and a steady influx of immigrants and refugees.
The project was launched during President Ayub Khan’s tenure in 1962. The service became a full circle of 44km in 1970 and connected Karachi’s four main work areas: the port, the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), the city’s central commercial areas such as Saddar and the Landhi Industrial Area. It was the usual mode of transport for people of Karachi till 1984 until the number of its trains was reduced due to high fuel and operational costs, besides poor maintenance which led to little to no revenues. An amalgamation of these and other factors caused the KCR to completely shut down its operations in 1999.