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Bahria Town not to take over Bagh Ibne Qasim if dispute persists, SHC told

Bahria Town not to take over Bagh Ibne Qasim if dispute persists, SHC told

KARACHI: While the provincial government on Monday justified before the Sindh High Court its decision to hand over Bagh Ibne Qasim to Bahria Town, the real estate giant informed the court that it was no longer interested in taking over the iconic park for maintenance purpose if the matter remained disputed.

Headed by Justice Junaid Ghaffar, a two-judge bench was hearing three separate but identical petitions against the government decision on the park. The petitions were filed by a citizen, Ahmed Zameer, Mayor Wasim Akhtar and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

The bench extended its earlier restraining order against the handover of the Bagh to Bahria Town to May 9.

Advocate Khalid Javed Khan, appearing on behalf of Bahria Town, said the real-estate giant was no longer interested in the park as its ownership was disputed and the matter had become controversial.

He also submitted before a two-judge bench of the SHC that the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation did not have locus standi in the case, as the park was under the administrative control of the District Municipal Corporation.

The bench, headed by Justice Junaid Ghaffar, had on April 3 restrained the Sindh government from handing over Bagh Ibne Qasim to Bahria Town in response to a set of petitions filed by the Karachi mayor, the PTI and a non-governmental organisation.

In its reply to the court’s orders, the provincial government vehemently opposed the petitions and asked the court to dismiss them.

The government said the notification was issued in accordance with the law and after the approval of competent authorities, and the petitioners’ requests were “without merit and justification”.

It said that as per the agreement with Bahria Town, the real estate giant had taken financial responsibility for development of the park and not a single inch of it would be used for commercial or any other purpose.

The government asked the court to dismiss the petitions as they were filed “with mala fide intention and to waste the time of the honourable court”.

The same bench had, on April 4, suspended the notification of handing over the public park to Bahria Town on a petition filed by MQM-P leader and mayor of Karachi Wasim Akhtar, which got the Pakistan Peoples Party-led provincial government’s move temporarily blocked.

The petitioner, Ahmed Zameer, argued that the local government secretary had signed an agreement dated March 30 with Bahria Town, handing over the public park to it for 10 years. He argued that the agreement in question was a violation of Article 140-A of the Constitution.

In his plea, Mayor Akhtar had argued that it was the responsibility of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation to transfer the functions of controlling the land owned by it, according to Part-I of Schedule-II of the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013.

Further referring to Part-II in Schedule-II of the Act (Item No 52), he contended that insofar as the parks and gardens were concerned, such powers were exclusively vested in the metropolitan corporation to maintain and create recreation facilities for the public.

According to the mayor, the agreement was a ‘commercial’ arrangement, whereby they have settled certain terms and conditions. Though the management of the park is being handed over to the private builder, the government will still be allocating budgets while paying salaries to the staff.

He had also referred to a judgement passed by the Supreme Court in a case relating to a portion of Bagh Ibne Qasim, wherein commercial activity was initiated and the apex court had concluded that no commercial activity could be carried out on an amenity plot.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2017

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