KARACHI - The Supreme Court on Tuesday barred the city authorities from converting residential buildings into commercial purpose and also ordered to remove illegal constructions across Karachi.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah issued the direction while hearing a plea filed by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) seeking cancelling of pre-arrest bail to accused allegedly involved in unauthorised construction on an evacuee trust property in Lyari, an old town of the metropolis.

The hearing was conducted at SC’s Karachi registry, wherein Director General Sindh Building Control Authority, Iftikhar Qaimkhani and others appeared in the court who were directed to appear with compliance report. 

During the hearing, Justice Gulzar lashed out at SBCA Director General, as he stated that the body had abandoned Karachi.

While expressing its displeasure over the SBCA’s negligence to control illegal constructions in the city, the court restrained the authority from issuing no-objection certificates (NoCs) for the construction of commercial buildings unless the projects are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as well.

The bench directed the authority to demolish illegal constructions from Jam Sadiq Ali Park, Abdullah Gymkhana and other areas. The judges further directed relevant authorities to submit details of how they plan to raze unlawful constructions.

“If the local government was incapable of running the city, it should let the Sindh government to take over,” Justice Gulzar Ahmed gave the remarks as the SBCA failed to satisfy the bench regarding complying of its prior order. The court also expressed its disappointment over failure of the authority to protect the trust’s property in question in Lyari as well as in other parts of the city.

The bench directed for immediate action to demolish every structure that is in violation of the city’s original master plan and restore Karachi to its 40-year-old state.

The bench told the provincial government to share its recommendations for restoration of Karachi to its 40-year-old state.

The bench further ordered residential plots should not be used for commercial purposes and told authorities to submit details of shopping centres, wedding halls and plazas built on residential plots over the last 30 to 40 years.

“Eight-storey buildings are being constructed on government plots,” Justice Gulzar lamented, adding that the SBCA only cares about minting billions of rupees. He berated Qaimkhani for “increasing his bank balance and shutting his eyes” to illegal constructions all over the city.

“You must be accumulating wealth in Dubai or the United States,” he said. Qaimkhani tried to assure the court that SBCA was working to fulfil court orders but Justice Gulzar told him to “speak less”. The top court’s judge said that government departments had “joined together to make money and ruined Karachi”.

“Your clerk must be a millionaire if not a billionaire,” Justice Gulzar said to SBCA’s director general.

“Who is allowing the construction of wedding halls, shopping centres and plazas in every other street?” the judge asked. “Should we hand the city’s control over to the federal government?”

Qaimkhani offered a meek apology and assured the bench that the SBCA will obey the court’s orders. Justice Gulzar, however, was not satisfied and said that by allowing the construction of wedding halls in the city, SBCA had “created a new culture” of holding functions in expensive halls.

In last hearing, the SBCA higher authority had informed the court that measures could not be taken to save the property in question due to poor law and order in Lyari, which was under the control of a particular political party.