SC warns of contempt notices to PM, CM over KCR project

CJP grinds railway secretary over Karachi Circular project: Orders operationalisation within six months: Also directs demolishing all housing societies on railway land

February 21, 2020 03:33 PM

The Supreme Court has ordered operationalization of the Karachi Circular Railway within six months.

During the hearing of the case at the apex court’s Karachi Registry on Friday, a visibly annoyed Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, warned of issuing contempt of court notices to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah if the concerned authorities fail to implement the orders.

A three-judge bench headed by CJP Gulzar, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah heard the KCR restoration case.

At the beginning of the Friday’s proceeding, Sindh AG Salman Talibuddin presented Circular Railway’s revival plan, trumpeting that an important development has been made on the project, though he admitted difficulties in the removal of encroachments from the 24 gates.

The Railways Secretary present on the occasion also jumped in saying on the directions of the apex court work is underway for the revival of the project.

Bulldozing their ‘plans on paper’, an angry CJP asked the Railways Secretary what the department was doing earlier. “You people do not want to improve the system as you just come up with long-written stories.”

The Railways Secretary said that they should build stations first. Upon which the CJP remarked “You’re incompetent; we will send you to jail directly from here. You should think before you speak. Are you intoxicated by your high office? Every day you turn up with new stories; now you say you’ll build 24 gates.”

When the secretary said “We’re trying our best,” the CJP said “You neither have the authority nor competence to do so. You are oblivious of the problems the people of Karachi are facing. I’m sure you never have even seen the track of the Circular Railway. You come without homework; you’re not even aware of its consequences.”

The secretary responded “Believe me, sir, I’ve visited frequently on trains. We have also taken back control from the Sindh government.”

The CJP said “Every now and then, your ministers come and give one statement inside the court, while the other to the media. I’m sure the entire outlook will be changed when we come to Karachi again,” adding that Gillani Station has been turned into a housing society.

The secretary said that the station is clear, but the railway land was confiscated. “Why did you not take action after cancelling the lease,” said the court.

“Because the case was already in the High Court; the Railway Cooperative Society had filed the case,” the Sindh AG intervened, adding that the entire railway route would be got clear soon. He said it was discussed during the meeting between Sindh CM and the Federal Minister for Railways.

The AG said that at least 6,000 people have been affected by the KCR. On which the CJP remarked that every day two to four people, on their way to the city station, would lose their lives as the overhead bridge was not constructed.

When the AG told the court it is a $2 billion project included in the CPEC, the CJP said sarcastically, “God knows how many people are waiting for the kickbacks,” adding that let the Chinese run this project.

The CJP asked why this a few kilometres train project has become a headache for the administration, wondering “are we not competent enough? Every year many engineers are graduated, where do all of them disappear.”

Pointing out the unfortunate though the inevitable process of brain drain, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah said “You send your people abroad where they work successfully,” adding the government has been running outdated trains.

Meanwhile, the CJP asked an attendee about the reason that brought him to the court. “I’m Firdous Shamim Naqvi from PTI, and came to talk about the Circular Railway,” he said.

On this, the CJP said “Your secretary is here to listen to your complaints.”

“I’m the opposition leader, and came here to discuss this issue concerning the general public,” said the PTI leader.

On this, the CJP said, “Aren’t you in the government? Besides, it is not the legislative assembly to discuss these issues.”

Firdous Shamim told the court that the PTI is in the opposition in the Singh Assembly. “But this is a federal subject. You came here against your own government,” remarked Justice Sajjad Ali Shah before stopping Naqvi to speak further.

The Railways Secretary said the department’s land in Kala Pull area has been encroached upon. “You can’t reclaim Kala Pull without Army’s help,” the CJP remarked.

Justice Gulzar further said that misleading news has been circulating in the newspapers that the court ordered to make a new master plan. “We never said to redesign a new master plan for Karachi,” he added.

The AG said “There is an air of fear and uncertainty in the city. There is demolition all around Karachi in the name of anti-encroachment action. Where will the people go?”

The court said “This is your responsibility to think about it. Where were you when the people were building illegal constructions? There is hardly any coordination between the Centre and the province.

“All the state agents and the influential people are fooling around the people of the city and you’re helpless,” said the CJP, asking the AG if he could do anything.

On this, the AG said that it is better that he leaves. “It’s not you but us who should leave,” the CJP remarked. “You have no authority over the property dealers. Whenever you go after them, they will approach the chief minister. These are all political matters,” the top judge said. “See, the people representing all the major parties are lined up here.”

The CJP said “What is the justification of illegal construction. Demolish it.”

On asking when the elevated stations would be built, the AG said “We’ll begin constructing them immediately, adding that contract would be awarded following the approval from the Chinese authorities.”

“Once you clear the land, it’s the constructor’s headache to build it. Why are you worried about the funds,” asked the CJP, adding that everything should be told during the election campaign.

The court asked the AG “Why don’t you tell these details to your government,” adding the PM should be summoned to explain if he can run KCR or not. “This is your government’s style to say one thing in the court, while another outside of it,” the court remarked.

The CJP said to Firdous Naqvi, while pointing towards the secretary, “your representative is here, tell him your grievances.”

Then the court ordered the AG to ask the CM and inform it within half an hour what is the line of action of the provincial government. The same directive and the deadline were given to the representative of the Centre. “What if the Chinese government backs out,” the court remarked.

The court asked the Railways Secretary why the authorities do not auction its precious land. “Even your police stations and post offices are on rent,” it added. “What have you been doing in the government for last two decades,” the CJP said to the AG.

On which the latter said it will be confirmed within 45 days whether or not China is funding the project. “Where have all the big industrialists? Why don’t they take interest in the projects? Or they too ask for their cuts?” the court asked.

The court observed the identical situation in Orange Line case. “How would it be run without giving subsidy?”

“Quaid-i-Azam would also be thinking what is happening in the country he founded for you,” the CJP remarked. “Sindh government should tell us if it can run the railway or not,” the court said.

“Neither the Centre is ready nor is the Sindh government, you’re only relying on China,” said Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

“We have prepared a comprehensive report, but we are unable to produce the essential documents,” the AG told the court. However, the KCR root map was presented in the court.

The CJP asked the concerned secretary why the railway authorities do not sell its land to recover losses, adding the court could summon the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister too. He also said both the PM and CM would be liable to contempt of court if KCR is not made functional within the stipulated time of six months.

While these proceedings were underway, there was a protest outside of the Supreme Court Karachi Registry. The demonstrators were protesting against the land grabbers, china cutting, and against the illegal constructions. In addition, Pakistan Steel Mills employees were protesting against non-payment of their salaries.

MQM leader Farooq Sattar was there to express solidarity with the protesters.

Later, the Supreme Court ordered to demolish all the housing societies on railway land in Karachi. CJP Justice Gulzar Ahmed directed the authorities to issue notices to the housing authorities and got vacate them within seven days. “All law enforcement institutions should assist the authorities in accomplishing this task,” he added.

The Railways Secretary was asked to issue the notices. “The Sindh government should frame a strategy on how to help the affectees, provide them alternate arrangement with all the facilities,” the top judge added.

The CJP sought a report about the order’s implementation on March 6.

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