Friday Nov 26, 2021
KARACHI: Protests by builders erupted on Friday on Shahrah-e-Faisal following orders by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed to demolish Nasla Tower within a week.
A protest call was given a day ago by Association of Builders And Developers (ABAD) Chairman Mohsin Shaikhani. The association has declared that work on any of its construction sites will remain halted. It maintains that the builders were in possession of no-objection certificates and despite that, the demolition work on Nasla Tower was ordered.
The protesters, who had gathered in large numbers in the afternoon hours, attempted to stop the demolition work. As a result, the flow of traffic was severely affected on the road considered to be the city's main artery.
Contingents of police and Rangers were deployed to the site of the protest to disperse the demonstrators. They baton-charged the crowd and used tear gas shells in an attempt to dissuade it from blocking the roads or resorting to violence.
According to traffic police, the track from Shahrah-e-Faisal to Shahrah-e-Qaideen started to become choked and as protesters continued to advance, they had no choice but to use force and fire teargas shells. The protesters, however, insist that they were gathered peacefully and even then were subjected to the use of force.
Shaikhani, according to Geo News, was injured and was seen limping away. He tried to speak to the media but it appears law enforcement officers did not allow any media talk as they continued to try and clear the road.
ABAD member Owais Thanvi, speaking to Geo News, protested against the building's demolition despite the builders having obtained an NOC and against a baton-charge by the police on what he termed peaceful protesters.
He said the NOC had been obtained from Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA). "Tell us the name of the institution where we can obtain a (permissible) NOC then," he said.
"If there was a problem, why did SBCA grant us an NOC then?" he asked.
Thanvi said that people had invested billions into the project and now they are being "forced out of their homes".
The ABAD member said that the association wants Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah and other government members to speak to them.
He said he can attest to the ABAD chairman and other members of the association being baton-charged and to teargas shells being fired at them.
Thanvi said that if there is a regularisation law, then it must be implemented, as is done in Islamabad. "If Islamabad's buildings can be regularised, why not Karachi's?"
Meanwhile, demolition work by labourers on the 15-storey building, which consists of four parking and 11 residential levels, continued.
District administration, anti-encroachment staff, Rangers and police personnel are currently present on the spot to continue monitoring the situation and to maintain law and order.
The police have established a "red line", a point that is within 200 metres of the tower, beyond which they are not allowing anyone to advance.
The flow of traffic, as of 6:30pm, remained affected in the tracks surrounding the tower, as can be seen in the Google Maps screenshot below:
Later in the evening, the police issued a statement saying that demolition work was underway and that the protesters have been instructed to keep a distance from the main road and the tower.
According to the police spokesperson, a separate area had been allotted to the protesters. The police had prevented the crowd from blocking Shahrah-e-Faisal, the spokesperson said.
"The protesters blocked the road and became an obstacle in the way of the work being carried out, so we had to resort to a baton charge," the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson claimed that "no one was injured" during the police action taken.
The road is now clear for traffic, the statement said.
Earlier in the day, the chief justice directed Karachi Commissioner Iqbal Memon to ensure the Nasla Tower building is razed to the ground within a week.
The chief justice ordered the Karachi commissioner to ensure the process is completed within the said time frame and a report is submitted as well.
"How soon till the process to destroy the building is completed?" asked the chief justice.
"I can provide no time frame for this," responded the Karachi commissioner. "Two hundred people are working on it."
In response, the chief justice told him to double the staff to "bring down the building". He wondered why authorities were demolishing the building from the ground first.
When Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi Ameer Hafiz Naeem appeared in court for the Nasla Tower demolition hearing, the chief justice told him bluntly: "We will not allow politics here."
Naeem asked the court to order the Sindh government to compensate the Nasla Tower affectees.
"Did you not listen to what milord said?" Justice Qazi Amin told the JI leader.
"What interest do you have in this building?" the chief justice asked Naeem.
Angered, the chief justice told the JI leader he would issue him a contempt of court notice. "No one is allowed to do politics in court," said Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan. "Please leave the courtroom," he ordered Hafiz Naeem.