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Lahore: Gulberg Town administration in hot water on illegal commercialisation

LAHORE: Gulberg Town administration inspectors and officials concerned have said that it is difficult to completely eliminate illegal commercialisation and encroachments without the support of the government and various departments concerned, including law enforcement agencies.

The officials said that the administration had been facing pressure from residents and owners of buildings, due to which it could not demolish encroached areas and arrest those involved in building commercial outlets at residences.

Not facilities: A senior inspector said that the town administration had announced the operation during the previous fiscal year, and that their teams had raided various markets and residential areas to demolish encroached parts, but could not do anything owing to public’s opposition and lack of facilities. “We neither have enough machinery to demolish the structures, nor have sufficient support of law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Quoting an incident in Model Colony, he said that a team of town inspectors, equipped with small machinery to demolish illegal extensions outside various houses, had gone to the colony a few months ago, but had to face a fierce reaction from the residents who attacked the team and forced them to leave the place. “We had two policemen with us, but the residents came out of their houses and threatened us with torture for staying there,” the inspector said. He said that the team had reported the incident to senior officials, who had pledged to take action against the residents, but the seniors could not do anything. “Following the incident, hundreds of residents flocked and protested outside the Gulberg Town administration office, after which the seniors had to step back to avoid more severe reaction from the public,” he added.

The inspector said that hundreds of offices of local and multi-national companies were situated in residential areas of Gulberg Town. He said that most people with political affiliation and connections with powerful institutions were involved in such violations. Another inspector said that encroachers became even more powerful by joining hands. “They help each other out whenever they face any threat of action against them,” he added.

Referring to the mini-food market along the Liberty Mosque, he said that most of those shops were built illegally. “Their massive encroachment has destroyed a section of the Liberty Park, as the shopkeepers serve their customers inside the park,” he said, adding that the town inspectors had tried to remove the encroachments, but had to step back owing to the owners’ pressure. He said that people had set up food outlets, showrooms and boutiques at their houses, but the town administration could not even touch them without the government’s support.

Determined, but alone: Town Municipal Officer (TMO) Malik Muzaffar Awan and Gulberg Town Officer Saleem Jahangir said that the town administration was determined to eliminate illegal commercialisation and encroachments from the area. They said that support from higher authorities, especially the government, could boost up their performance.

Saleem Jahangir said that the town inspectors had registered FIRs (first information reports) against 160 people for conducting illegal commercial activities during the last year. He said that a number of people had also faced action for encroaching public property in markets and residential areas.

Muzaffar Awan said that the administration had continued the operation against violators throughout the year. He said that illegal commercialisation had increased in Gulberg Town because everyone wanted to set up offices there, as it was the most suitable commercial zone for national and international companies. “The administration is determined to control the phenomenon, and is planning to allocate a significant amount in its upcoming town budget to take action against illegal commercialisation and encroachments,” he added.

Source: Daily Times

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