The ‘regularisation’ syndromeArdeshir Cowasjee - Sunday, March 06, 2011

Source :

WHILST morality lies moribund in this Republic, and its legislators slowly whittle away at whatever `assets` are left to it, the environment of our cities — Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and others — is slowly and steadily being eaten up by the various mafias (official and otherwise) who feel their time is running out. Attack is the order of the legislative day.

Karachi, proud city of Sindh, where much of the country`s wealth lies, is a particular sufferer when it comes to the callous condonation given to build substandard constructions, to the loss of open spaces, greenery and what are known as amenity plots. The `regularisation` syndrome has for too long persisted.

In 2002, the then governor of Sindh, Mohammadmian Soomro promulgated an ordinance that converted wrong into right. He `regularised` thousands of hazardously-constructed buildings which would crumble and kill in the event of an upper-moderate level earthquake (in which seismic zone the city of Karachi lies). His excuse: “widows and orphans” who had “invested their life-savings” in the to-be-demolished-under-court-orders buildings needed to be protected.

He falsely promised to prosecute criminal builders and corrupt Karachi Building Control Authority officials who had colluded in the dangerous construction. As projected by the Association of Builders and Developers, the city stood to make billions in `regularisation` penalties. It was all an eyewash.

Now, a second Soomro `regulariser`, Sindh Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, (in the words of his party spokesman) wants to help “remove the sword of illegality” from over the heads of “poor and ignorant” people who have been deprived of their “hard-earned monies” by unscrupulous encroachers. He proposes, via the `Protection and Prohibition ( sic ) of Amenity Plots Bill 2009` to `regularise` all amenity plots in Sindh which have been encroached upon or `grabbed` during the past 17 years.

Such `compassion` is the hallmark of our politicians in and out of uniform. They protest that they do nothing for their own benefit, they serve the `poor and ignorant`, the `widows and orphans`. But they legislate in the name of progress and equity which merely affects their own pockets and power bases.

It is a statistical fact, undeniable by our `compassionate` legislators, past and present, that during the passage of 64 years under the guidance of generals, governors, ministers and their ilk, the levels of poverty, illiteracy and misery have alarmingly risen in our country.

Right now, with law and order dead to us, citizens of Pakistan are lining up to escape to other lands where strict implementation of the law is the norm. They have realised something that our transient leaderships fling to the dry winds, that an unemotional implementation of law leads to progress: electricity does not fail, water is available, sewage is treated, traffic moves, pollution is controlled, commerce/industry prospers, health standards rise, public order is maintained and life improves.

Pakistan has a long history of `regularisations`. Black money is whitened, smuggled cars are regularised, illegal appointments are regularised, tax evasions are condoned, unauthorised buildings are regularised, land-grabbing is regularised, illegal weapons are regularised, refugees are brought into the mainstream and military takeovers are clothed with the `doctrine of necessity`. This establishes a culture where what is illegal today will be legal tomorrow. It assures the lawbreaker that even if caught, he will not be punished. It proves that crime pays.

On March 1 this newspaper printed a most pertinent editorial: `Threat to public land`. Dissecting the `compassionate` Amenity Plots Bill 2009, it was aptly termed pro-land-grabber, contradictory, contemptuous of town-planning, unconstitutional, and in contravention of the Supreme Court`s recent directive to clear encroachments from parks in Karachi.

It stated: “If the government is sincere about the plight of underprivileged citizens who have been sold plots on encroached amenity lands by criminals, it should provide the affected people with alternative land. Amenity plots should remain amenity plots and the state should protect what little public space is left in Karachi, not aid criminals` efforts to occupy and make money out of it.”

Tomorrow, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry`s bench in Islamabad will learn what the City District Government Karachi has done to implement its Feb 4, 2011 order to clear, within 30 days, the 1,000-plus parks of Karachi from non-conforming encroachments.

The press reported that the drive started on March 2 (a few days before the deadline expired), and apparently the only structures being demolished were libraries, union council offices and gardeners`/sweepers` sheds, all built by the KMC/CDGK with taxpayer money.

In deference to their political and criminal masters, the CDGK demolition squad is not bulldozing the numerous land mafia`s buildings or private houses and commercial edifices on park land. Could the Supreme Court kindly look into this noora-kushti ?

Urban-planning laws forbid amendments to notified development layout plans without an elaborate procedure involving justification of changes, and invitation and consideration of public objections. Corrupt sleazy bureaucrats and politicians have observed these laws in the breach, with the result that the great majority of sub-divisions or changes in land-use have been carried out illegally over the past decades.

The Amenity Plots Cell of the CDGK`s Master Plan department has complete detailed lists and layout plans of all the illegal sub-divisions and allotments for non-conforming purposes in amenity plots in the city. The parks department has extensive information on the misuse of green spaces under its jurisdiction. All this must be properly placed at the disposal of the court so that the land grabbers` extensive efforts to defeat the directives of the judges are foiled.

This `regularisation` syndrome must be nipped in the bud, before it spreads all over the country. As our PPP government maintains, democracy is the best revenge. Under military rule in Pakistan, man exploited man. Under democracy today, the opposite applies.

No comments:

Post a Comment