* Former nazim says plots meant for parks occupied by political parties

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Karachi city government to recover plots and parks occupied illegally by the land mafia and political parties by February 2.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, heard the petition filed by former Karachi nazim Niamatullah Khan.

The petitioner pleaded the apex court to recover amenity plots and parks occupied illegally by the land mafia and political parties in the city.

During the course of proceedings, counsel for Karachi city government, Dr Farukh Naseem, argued before the court that the applicant had not presented the original facts in his petition.

He said that city government had already retaken possession of public parks occupied illegally, adding that local government had also expedited its efforts to retake possession of other public parks.

Justice Ramday remarked that it was not right to construct union council offices on land belonging to a public park.

He said due to illegal constructions at public parks, a senior bureaucrat of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Kamran Lashari, had to face legal action. He said he had no hesitation to say that Lashari was his friend and also his neighbour in Lahore. However, the law is similar for all and all are equal in the eye of law, he said.

He said the duty of the court was to protect the constitution and no one was above the law, including the judges.

The court asked the counsel to ensure end to illegal occupation of public parks and submit a compliance report in the court on February 2.

Niamatullah Khan informed the court that political parties had set up their offices on 127 amenity plots and parcelled out another 35 plots and some parkland for residential and commercial purposes during the past four years.

The petitioner has made the interior secretary, the Sindh chief secretary, provincial secretaries of home, local government and environment, the Sindh police chief, the director general of the Pakistan Rangers and the Karachi city government as respondents in the petition through its district coordination officer.

He questioned the authority of the local government to convert the public land and amenity plots into residential or commercial estate or to allot these to any person or authorise construction over the same.