LAHORE - Bustling and winding streets of Shah Alam Market, one of the main commercial hubs of the city, have been seeing a massive anti-encroachment drive led by the District Administration and Metropolitan Cooptation of Lahore for the last few days.

The District Administration used the Shah Alam Market map of 1934 to identify encroachments and informed traders about them.

On third day of the operation against encroachers in Shah Alam Market, shopkeepers came forward and started demolishing their illegal structures voluntarily. Some shopkeepers expressed their dissatisfaction with the ongoing drive against encroachments.

So far, the district administration has demolished 350 structures illegally constructed in verandas and razed 75 shops illegally constructed on the state land. The estimated cost of the retrieved land is Rs3.5 billion. MCL Ravi Zone squared has completed the operation in D-Plaza. Encroachments in Sirafa Bazaar, Dabbi Bazaar and Kashmiri Bazaar have been identified. 

Tayyab, a shopkeeper near the Toy Market in Shah Alam Market, said, “The district administration and MCL gave only verbal notices and then all of a sudden came with staff and machines to raze illegal structures in front of our shops.”

Shah Alam Market is home to dozens of markets dealing in perfumes, watches, crockery and countless other businesses. These markets supply products to rest of the city and other smaller towns.

The market is named after Shah Alam Gate of the Mughal era that was burnt during the 1947 Partition. The area was mostly a Hindu populated area with the businesses owned by Hindus. The gate was named after Shah Alam who was seventh emperor of the Mughal dynasty.

According to a resident of Rang Mahal, 29-year-old Chand, these buildings and shops were built on Auqaf land in Rang Mahal Chowk and before their grand fathers started business there, it was Hindus who used to run their businesses in Rang Mahal Chowk.

“We knew this (anti-encroachment) drive was coming for decades. This is the first time this is happening on such a large scale. We will shift our business to some other place,” he said.

City assistant commissioner along with enforcement teams of MCL and police carried out the operation.

The traders were requested to demolish the encroachments by themselves and a deadline was given to them. However, after the deadline, the District Administration and MCL staff and police started the operation and demolished extensions outside 350 shops.

Lahore Deputy Commissioner Saleha Saeed directed all assistant commissioners to monitor operations by themselves.

In another operation in Model Town’s G Block graveyard, temporary encroachments were demolished and 11 kanal state land was retrieved.

At least 30 FIRs were registered against shopkeepers in Township market for encroaching upon the state land.