SC slams DHA for giving away state land


–Justice Gulzar Ahmed asks why military handed over nine acres of public land to private party

–Takes defence secretary, attorney general to task over govt’s failure to comply with court’s order of razing illegal settlements


KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday criticised the Pakistan Army for allotting state land in Karachi as it rejected a report submitted by the defence secretary “unsatisfactory” and “eyewash”.

A two-member bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, resumed hearing of the case that pertains to illegal constructions in the metropolis at SC’s Karachi registry.

In January, the court ordered the authorities to demolish illegal constructions that are in violation of the original master plan of the metropolitan.

Defence Secretary Ikramul Haq, Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) Director General Iftikhar Qaimkhani, Mayor Waseem Akhtar, Senior Superintendent Police Suhai Aziz Talpur, and representatives from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board and other institutions were present at the hearing.

During the hearing, the bench took the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) to task for handing over state land to private entities, while directing the SBCA to ensure the court order regarding the razing of the illegal buildings.

The bench asked the justification of running marriage hall by the Pakistan Army, asking under what powers the army can hand over government land to a private entity? He asked why the military had handed over nine acres of public land to a private party.

“The DHA is a real piece of work,” Justice Ahmed remarked, adding that state land in Karachi had been handed over to private parties by the military. “If you have no need for the land, return it to the federal government,” the judge said to the attorney general.

Rasheed A. Razvi, the lawyer for Global Marquees, told the court that there was no precedent of the army returning land to the government.

“Let us make the history today, then,” Justice Ahmed asserted.

The attorney general said that marriage hall’s rental income is given to the families of martyrs.

“In Karachi, all parks and playgrounds have been taken over and named after martyrs,” the judge said. “We seem to be right on top when it comes to martyrs. Who knows, maybe even I will become a martyr or be killed,” the judge retorted.

Criticising the report, the judge said the attorney general ware submitting this report as a lollipop. To which, the attorney general said that it was a “report on actions taken as per the court’s directives”.

Although the attorney general contended that only a couple of points had not been implemented, the court said the issue was not that one point had not been implemented but that the entire court order was not implemented. It subsequently rejected review pleas filed by the Cantonment Board and others.

Expressing displeasure over the non-compliance with the court orders, Justice Ahmed asked whether the SC should be shut down as its orders were not being implemented.

He said the public wanted encroachments to be removed from cantonment areas, questioning a marriage hall by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). “If the government wished, all the bulldozers would be ready in five minutes,” he said.

The judge also expressed displeasure with Pakistan International Airlines, which had yet to raze a marriage hall. “You don’t know how to manage your airplane, but you have now come to start building marriage halls,” the judge remarked.

Meanwhile, it also issued a notice to Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani and Karachi mayor over statements they had issued against the anti-encroachment operation in Sindh.

“Where is the minister who said ‘we will not raze a single building’?” Justice Ahmed asked. “The mayor Karachi also says we will not demolish buildings. Has he decided to fight a war against the court?”

Ghani in his remarks had announced that he would not implement the court’s orders, said civil rights campaigner Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi.