EDITORIAL: As the demolition of Nasla Tower is on line, the erstwhile residents of its apartments want to know if they were illegal occupants. They had made full payments following open bargains with the owner of the housing complex. And if it was built on some encroached land how would they have known, especially when this tall structure in the heart of city could not have escaped notice of city’s building control authority? But they have been dispossessed of their homes and hearths; they are chewing the lollypop of compensation. And they are not alone to suffer the banishment; excepting a few buildings built on encroached lands, including Prime Minister Imran Khan’s palatial residence in Islamabad’s Bani Gala, tens of thousands have been made homeless as the campaign against encroachments gains momentum. In Karachi alone, thousands of homesteads have been raised to the ground and their residents allowed to bask in the open sun. Although the affected people are carrying the promise of resettlement, it is however not known when it will be honoured. But for how long could this situation, which arguably carries the characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive qualities of Franz Kafka’s fictional world, last? Be that as it may, a lady member of the Sindh Assembly has raised the banner of rebellion against the policy of dispossessing people of their homes in the name of anti-encroachment drive. On the private members day on Tuesday the PPP’s Nida Khuhro tabled a resolution, urging the Sindh government to chalk out a plan to protect all previously constructed residential homes built illegally to avoid a humanitarian disaster, while action should be taken against the delinquent officials who allowed such constructions. “The citizens, from all strata of society, have invested their hard-earned savings in the purchase of units in such constructions and are in occupation of those premises based on documents issued and registered with the relevant authorities”, the resolution pointed out. The resolution was opposed by the PTI-led opposition in the assembly, but only for the sake of opposing everything and proposing nothing. And the Nida’s resolution was adopted by house. The Sindh government is now expected to pass a law to protect such constructions. But will it do it in defiance of the Supreme Court’s decision against illegal encroachments? It is also important to note that she has urged judiciary to revisit its decision on humanitarian grounds.
The entire saga of illegal encroachments stems from two basic violations - misuse of land rules and violation of building control rules. In Pakistan there is not an inch of land which has no owner. Be it the mountain slopes, far off villages or the metropolitan cities the land is fully registered in terms of its size and ownership. So, there should be no confusion about the status of land where a construction is to be raised. But the problem here is that this information is not easily available to the common man. It is beyond comprehension that those who bought apartments in Nasla Tower knew that half of the structure was built on unauthorised land. The principal culprits are the building control officials without whose connivance there would have been no Nasla Tower. Not only in Karachi, in fact all over the country, the building control authorities fall far short of doing their work to ensure that constructions they are expected to oversee are not in violation of land use or building control limitations. Even in the newly-built national capital, Islamabad, not only the government land has been encroached but the constructions too are in violation of approved building plans. According to the CDA (Capital Development Authority) rules, the commercial and residential buildings are not supposed to be occupied unless these have the completion certificates. But who cares?
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021