Karachi: Encroachments have become a big challenge for civic authorities, as active covert involvement of police, municipal and building control authorities and political patronising of organised encroachment mafias have made it almost impossible to end this illegal business of multi-billion rupees.
The failure of government departments is the main reason behind mushrooming encroachments in Karachi, said senior human rights lawyer and president of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) Zia Ahmed Awan. He said the existing laws are not sufficient to check the encroachments and powerful people behind them. He said police is actively involved in encroachments. He said even many police stations in Karachi are erected on enmity lands. He said illegal encroachments could also be found in majority of police lines of the city, where cops and officers have occupied additional spaces around their residences. He said illegal flats and rooms could be seen constructed on the residential buildings in police stations and lines.
Awan said land grabbing is most lucrative business in Karachi and this is why very powerful players including government officials, political figures and criminal mafias are overtly or covertly involved in this easy way to mint money. He said recently the Punjab government has passed a strict law against encroachments and Sindh should follow suit. He, however, paid rich tributes to Sindh assembly for passing a law against wall chalking and said it should also pass a strict law against illegal encroachments. He said besides strong laws it also needs a strong implementation of law, adding this is the field where political will is visibly lacking in Sindh province. He said there is no check on erecting commercial buildings on residential and amenity plots, as the building control departments are amongst the most corrupt departments.
He said encroachment mafia is smart and they use political affiliation to get cover for illegal encroachments. He said in Karachi one could easily find colonies that were started as illegal encroachments in the names of the rulers of that time, like Musharraf Colony and Ziaul Haq Colony. He said in our society the encroachments are now no more considered a crime, and even some philanthropist organizations have erected their stalls to serve poor people, like giving them free food, on footpaths and bus stops.
He said there should be a separate department for removing encroachments as the police and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) are too politicized and too corrupt to do the task.
Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) Sindh chapter president Haleem Adil Shaikh corruption culture has destroyed all sectors of our society including bureaucracy. He said when the very organizations like police, KMC and building control authorities turn the blind eye towards overgrowing encroachments, who else would care. He said it is open secret that police, bureaucracy and political elements patronize illegal encroachments of lands, roads and footpaths, which has destroyed the beauty of Karachi. He said illegal encroachments are live billboards of bad governance and in fact harming the credibility of the sitting government. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leader, ex-MPA Muhammad Yunus Barai said encroachments on amenity plots is a very serious matter and the concerned authorities should not take it lightly, as land grabbing is one the major reasons of ongoing law and order situation in Karachi. He said in Karachi not only vendors sell their goods on footpaths, but big car dealers also use these footpaths as platforms for display of their cars, He said the government should take brave efforts to remove illegal encroachments of all types from all parts of the city. He said steps in this regard should be taken in the wider interest of Karachi and Karachiities, thinking above the political considerations. He said all political parties should purge encroachers and land grabbers from their ranks and files.
Rehmat Khan Wardag, president Tehreek I Istaqlal said poverty and joblessness are also responsible for growing encroachments in the city. He said police is very much involved in encroachments, as no one dares to put a cabin or vending pushcart on road and footpath without greasing the palms of area police. He suggested the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) should provide alternate open spaces like grounds to these poor vendors to hold flea markets in a legal and organized manner.
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