Public servants must facilitate the public

Arsalan Raja
IN civilised societies of the world, civic facilities are meant for the benefit of the public and they must be determinedly guarded to protect the interest of the citizens. From the perusal of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, it is very clear that the allotment of amenity plot for a purpose other than amenity would be sheer violation of the law and negation of the rights of all citizens. Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 specifically provides that, The State shall provide for all citizens, within the available resources of the country, facilities for work and adequate livelihood with reasonable rest and leisure.
Unfortunately the precious amenity lands of Karachi have continuously been illegally converted for profitable businesses. In Karachi, DHA and Cantonment Board have allotted several amenity lands to the foreign originated petroleum companies with the partnership with DHA and cantonment board, to construct petrol pumps in the residential areas, which were never designated for petrol pumps sites. Additionally, in terms of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority Ordinance of 2002, NOC from the Explosive Department is necessary for the construction of petrol pumps, especially in the residential areas however no such permission or NOCs were issued to these petrol pumps. More so, these petrol pumps site also failed to obtain any NOC from Sindh Environmental Protection Agency which is a clear violation of law in terms of Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997.
Furthermore, the conversion of amenity plot to commercial, is also barred by Karachi Building and Town Planning Regulations, 2002. Besides, no information regarding the allotment of amenity plots are given to the citizens of the area, which is a sheer violation of Article 19-A (right to information) of the Constitution of Pakistan. It is pertinent to mention that as per the Petroleum Act 1934 and Petroleum Rules 1937, any site plan for the purpose of establishment of a petrol pump including its design and construction for the installation, must be exclusively approved by the authority contemplated by Petroleum Act, 1934 and Rules 1937, however majority of aforesaid petrol pumps have failed to get approval from the Chief Inspector of Explosives Department.
Several Government departments have converted their Respective lands, which were allotted to them for defence, education and training institutions, to business purposes, such as marriage halls and housing societies without following the unified code of Karachi Building & Town Planning Regulations, 2002 as well as Transfer of Property Act 1882 in stricto senso. Plots that have now been converted into commercial marriage halls or marquees are an absolute violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan and as a result of which easementry rights, privacy and the right of air have now been seriously jeopardised due to heavy rush, blockage of roads and traffic congestion that eventually take a toll on people’s mental and physical health. It has perhaps become a common practice for the authorities, for their own benefits or of their officials, to encroach upon public areas, plots, especially greenbelts, parks and playgrounds for commercial purposes and such type of activities have created doubts in the mind of Pakistanis, the recent example is the conversion of military land to the marriage hall in Karachi near FTC Building.
That it would be appropriate to mention here that in the 1970s it was decided that all defence land be transferred to the Government of Sindh excepting Fowler Lines, Bizerta Lines and a small portion North of Iqbal Shaheed Road in which Naval elements and institutional area are located. In this regard, detail judgment has been passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan which was subsequently reported in 2010 SCMR 885, wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court has ordered for demolition of Habib Makro which was illegally allowed by Pervaiz Musharaf when he was the head of Pakistan Army. In the said judgment different gazette notifications, letters and jurisdiction of Karachi Cantonment and defence land have been discussed. In the aforesaid judgment all defence lands, which were allotted, to the Military authorities were reversed back to KDA except few areas. However in Karachi it has becomes a routine practice that all of a sudden the government authorities, for the benefit of their high officials encroach upon public areas, in this regard a huge and precious plot of National Stadium, which belongs to every Pakistani, has been converted into General Colony.
It is significant to mention here that the military cantonments all over the world are located outside towns and main cities, however fortunately or unfortunately in Karachi the land throughout Shahra-i-Faisal, worth countless rupees, are owned by the military and paramilitary. Metropolitan cities in the world like Dubai, New York, Beijing and even Delhi, Mumbai Colombo and Dhaka are surrounded by high-rise and corporate buildings, five star hotels and other commercial buildings. In my humble view, currently gigantic land area (throughout Shara-i-Faisal) is owned by the military and paramilitary which can be best utilised for various commercial activities which will certainly boost the city’s and the country’s economic position, in fracture of Karachi and can give a good impression to the foreigners and tourists especially after the success of CPEC.
—The writer is Advocate High Court and practices law in Karachi.

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