The feud between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) escalated on Saturday after the Malir District government together with the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) apparently launched anti-encroachment operations against only two farmhouses. at Memon Goth in the district.
PTI vice president and opposition leader Haleem Adil Sheikh provincial assembly later claimed that the farmhouses belonged to his brothers and cousins. But Regional Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah said the operation was against encroachment in Malir district.
Shah said that this anti-encroachment operation was part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s policy towards land grabbing in the country. He asked the PTI leadership to support the operation against the land grabbers. According to SBCA officials, more than 30 farmhouses in the area will be demolished.
A statement issued by the Malir District deputy commissioner’s office said the operation was carried out on the orders of DC Gahanwer Ali Laghari in the Shah Mureed and Murad Memon sub-divisions in coordination with the Anti-Encroachment Force and district police.
Assistant Commissioner Shah Mureed Ashraf Sangri and Murad Memon Goth AC Ghulam Farooq Soomro oversaw the operation. AC Kota Gadap said their target was to demolish around 30 farmhouses by Saturday, as the 30-year lease term for the plots on which the houses had been built had ended.
He said they didn’t know the owner of the farmhouse, and all they knew was that they were built illegally. He also said that the notification had been given to the farmhouse owner but they refused to accept it.
The SBCA anti-encroachment team said the operation was being carried out against Palm Village farmhouses and the Country Club. They said that the operation was carried out at the direction of the court, adding that it would continue through Monday.
However, the operation was stopped after residents attacked the police and the anti-encroachment team. Protesters also blocked the Super Highway near the Toll Plaza, causing traffic jams on both tracks for hours.
A group of men also threw stones at SBCA’s heavy equipment. The district government has started an operation to demolish all illegally built farmhouses in the area.
‘Out of the bag’
Speaking to media outside the PA, Sheikh said the “corrupt” Sindh Government had begun destroying the “legal” structure of PTI leaders in Malir to silence opposition voices.
He said that they would not tolerate any “pressure”, and that they would continue to “dismantle the Sindh corruption mafia inside and outside the assembly”.
Flanked by PTI’s Firdous Shamim Naqvi, Khurrum Sher Zaman and parliamentary party leader Bilal Ghaffar, Sheikh said the cat had now been removed from the bag.
He explained that when they started to uncover “the corruption of the PPP leadership, the Chief Minister of Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah started demolishing the houses of the peasants led by PTI in Malir District on the orders of Deputy Chairman of PPP Asif Ali Zardari”.
He said that on national holidays, action was taken even on “my relatives’ official lands”. He added that his poultry farm spread over four hectares was affected by the operation, “despite the fact that we have applied for 99 years of lease”.
Sheikh said a residence order against the anti-encroachment operation had been obtained from the court for the demolished farmhouses. He gave an example, action was taken on Saturday because the court remains closed on Sunday. He said they had proper documents and other relevant documents regarding the farmhouse of his brother Azeem Adil Sheikh and his cousin Tariq Qureshi.
He appealed to the Supreme Court and Sindh High Court to set up a judicial commission for land grabbing in the province. He claims that CM and the minister LG are involved in the illegal distribution of land among their blue-eyed boys.
He also claimed that around 5,000 hectares had been encroached on in Jamshoro, Malir and Thatta, while CM was involved in a major corruption scandal of the sugar mill, Roshan Pakistan and the Omni Group.
Naqvi asks why the action was taken despite the stay order. He said that if the farmhouse was illegal, why did the government allow its construction in the first place. He also accused the anti-encroachment team of looting valuables from the farmhouse.
Sindh government spokesman Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that anti-encroachment operations had been taking place throughout Karachi, including in Malir District, clarifying that they were not aimed at any politician but against the mafia involved in land grabbing.
Wahab, who is also CM’s legal advisor, spoke with the media during his visit to the Kidney Hill Park under construction. He advised the Sheikh to appreciate the ongoing efforts to free the city’s land from illegal occupation instead of getting angry.
“Has action been taken against Haleem Adil Shaikh? Instead, measures have been taken against those who rented it [of land] has been canceled, as the process to vacate government land is ongoing. “
He said the same opposition party had praised similar anti-encroachment efforts in Punjab, but that accusations had been leveled in the Sindh case.
He advised that such double standards should be avoided because it implied that the anti-encroachment movement in the Lahore case was right but that carrying out a similar campaign in Karachi was wrong. He warned that legal action would be taken against anyone who obstructed anti-encroachment efforts.
Wahab claims that the Malir property in question has not been announced by the Sheikh before the General Elections Commission of Pakistan (ECP). He said he would approach the ECP if the claim that the land belonged to the PTI leadership turned out to be true.
He said that the anti-encroachment movement was not aimed at anyone. He clarified that the land had been provided for setting up a poultry farm, but their lease had been canceled in 2015.
“If action can be taken against encroachment at Kidney Hill, then why can’t the same push be done at Gadap?” he says. He also clarified that there is no political party affiliated with any group that is involved in land grabbing, because it is individuals who are wrong, not political parties.
The advisor said that legal action should be taken against all guilty people, regardless of their political affiliation.
He remembers that a year has passed since starting the revival effort for Kidney Hall Park and launching an action against encroachment on his land.
He said that in the past garbage littered the park but now 110,000 saplings are planted there to develop it. He gave an example, the construction of Kidney Hall Park will pave the way for urban forest development in the middle of the city.
The spokesman said that a similar tree planting program had been launched near the Clifton coastal strip. He informed the media that another campaign would be launched on February 15 to plant trees along the main highway.
He said that Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and all district municipal companies had helped the provincial government to improve the city environment.
‘Land for farming’
Manpower Minister Saeed Ghani said that thousands of hectares in Malir District had been provided on rent for 30 years for agricultural or poultry farming purposes, but using the land to build farmhouses, housing projects or residential units was illegal.
In a press conference, Ghani said that the Revenue Council is empowered to take action against any illegal activity carried out on the plot of land even if the lease is valid.
He said the Sheikh was obliged to explain how the construction of a farmhouse on a plot of land in Malir district was legal.
He also said that it is wrong to assume that anti-encroachment operations have been launched against only two specific farmhouses in the district. “The fact is that action is being taken against thousands of hectares of land like that in two Dehs Malir District.”
The minister said that action was being taken against such land in the district whose 30 year lease term had expired or which was used for purposes other than those predetermined.
He said the Supreme Court had issued a strict order against the land. “In fact, the chief justice of Pakistan himself has summoned deputy commissioners from all districts to issue directives.”
He also said that it was ridiculous to claim that such measures were being taken for political victimization. He claimed government records showed that the land his actions took did not belong to the Sheikh or other PTI leadership.
Ghani echoed Wahab’s opinion that political parties who had previously praised anti-encroachment efforts in Lahore had tried to turn a similar move in Karachi into controversial by calling it an act of political revenge.
He claimed that the action had been going on from July 2020 to January 2021 to clear 1,200 hectares of government land in Malir District. “So, it is unfounded to give the impression that the new push has been launched since Haleem Adil Sheikh became leader of the opposition.”
He said that the Sindh government would continue to take action against all elements involved in extorting millions of rupees from the Karachi community through the construction of housing projects or by carrying out other illegal activities on the plot of land provided at 30- year leases.
In response to a question, he said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had asked for details of the investigation carried out by the Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment into the 400 hectares of government land allegedly occupied by the Sheikh. Ghani said he did not know whether NAB would take further action in the case.