KARACHI: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed on Thursday warned that the Supreme Court may issue contempt of court notices to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and other officials of the provincial government if they fail or refuse to comply with a 2019 order regarding the recovery of encroached Railways land in the city.
The CJP issued the warning while hearing a case related to the restoration of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) system.
Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar, the commissioner Karachi, the secretary Railways and the advocate general Sindh were present for the hearing.
The Supreme Court had in November last year ordered the authorities to take steps to immediately revive the Karachi Circular Railway project and clear all encroachments on Railways land in the metropolis.
The court had ordered the clearance of all railways tracks and demolishment of encroachments on land owned by Pakistan Railways with the help of the deputy commissioner.
CJP Gulzar on Thursday asked the officials whether the orders were implemented or not.
To the question, the advocate general responded saying that the court had ordered the restoration of the circular railway but that project has now been absorbed into the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The lawyer informed the court that the provincial government had formulated a framework for KCR’s restoration thrice and sent it to the federal government, adding that the Sindh government could not, by itself, send a framework directly to China.
The counsel for the Sindh government also informed the court that the KCR has 24 gates and if those gates were opened, it would cause traffic jams in the city. He also argued that only 15,000 to 17,000 people would use the KCR system, but inconvenience countless others.
CJP Gulzar rubbished this argument, reminding the lawyer that the people of the city used to rely on the KCR before the introduction of motorcycles and buses.
The top judge remarked that the government does not seem to want to run the circular railway at all. In this scenario, action against the relevant authorities for contempt was the only way left for the court to follow.
He remarked that the court should issue contempt notices to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, the mayor Karachi, the commissioner Karachi and the Railways secretary for non-compliance with its orders.
The court also directed the Railways secretary to get a copy of the decision taken by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on the KCR revival for the court’s reference.
The CJP further remarked that provincial government officials should accompany him (the Railways secretary) and learn how work gets done.
He reiterated his belief that progress was not being made on the project due to the government’s political agenda and political expediency.
During the hearing, Faisal Siddiqui, the lawyer for citizens affected by the evictions ordered by the Supreme Court, informed the court that 6,500 people have already become homeless due to the KCR revival project.
He alleged that the government does not bulldoze the buildings of the rich but only targets the poor.
To this, the CJP remarked that the government does so because it is not in their interest to against the rich and powerful.
He then turned to the commissioner Karachi to direct him to bulldoze all buildings built on Railways land. He added that they should be demolished within a week and the court will issue an order in this regard.
The commissioner reminded the CJP that the Sindh High Court had restrained the authorities from bulldozing the buildings in question.
The CJP told the commissioner to go ahead with the demolition nonetheless and inform the Sindh High Court that it was being done on the Supreme Court’s orders.
During the hearing, the Railways secretary alleged that it was the Sindh government that was causing hindrances in the project.
“Is it [only] the Sindh government’s responsibility?” questioned the CJP. To this, the secretary informed the court that under the agreement, it was indeed the provincial government’s responsibility to revive the project.
However, the commissioner Karachi objected, saying that the provincial government does not have any responsibilities in this regard and it all falls under the Railways ministry.
After hearing the bureaucrats, the CJP remarked that nothing will be accomplished if the two officials continue to trade blame with each other.