As per statistics of the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP), there are 38,539 cases pending with the Supreme Court, 293,947 with the five High Courts and 1,869,886 cases with the subordinate judiciary of the four provinces and the federal capital. It is estimated that from those in the lower judiciary over 40 percent of these cases are related to the property matters.
There is the infamous 100-year-old property inheritance case which was finally resolved in Jan 2018, after the Supreme Court of Pakistan announced verdict. The case had started in the court of Rajasthan, India, in 1918, revolving around a dispute over the inheritance of 5,600 kanals of land in Khairpur Tamiwali tehsil in Bahawalpur district.
Builders, developers, and investors GVS spoke with believe that Supreme Court must take notice of this prevailing situation across the country and should form special benches in High Courts and within the Supreme Court on land and construction matters for speedy disposal of cases within six months to safeguard the interest of end consumers, and common citizens.
Currently, situation is that these land and construction cases get stuck in courts for years and sometimes for even decades. The party that has done corruption in the case controls the outcome; it just hires an expensive top lawyer and gets stay orders from the court that keeps on extending till eternity. Situation demands special benches with time limits for resolving cases – to safeguard interest of end consumers.
Nasla Tower on Shahrah-e-Faisal, Karachi is a case in point. Country’s apex court, in June 2021, taking Suo Moto notice under Art. 184 (3) had determined that Nasla Tower was built illegally, and more than 340 yards of extra land was appropriated in its structure, of 1121 yards, which was not part of the original allotment of around 780 yards. It ordered demolition of the building on June 16, this year when it rejected a review by the builder.
Builders and investors, not only in Karachi but across Pakistan, have been gripped by fear and uncertainty because Nasla Tower had a complex history dating back to 1950 and the land allotment, expansion and building construction took place under NOCs from multiple jurisdictions over a period of sixty years and remained unchallenged till the determination by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Facts were all over the print and electronic media. Plot No. 193-A, measuring 780 square yards, in the Sindh Muslim Cooperative Housing Society (SMCHS) at Shahrah-e-Faisal, was first allotted by SMCHS to a certain Nusratli in 1950 – three years after the creation of Pakistan as a residential plot for making a private house. Commercial construction was only allowed, under new bylaws, after 2005.
Karachi was then a relatively much smaller city, perhaps with half a million citizens, as compared to the large megalopolis of 25 million it has become today. It was rapidly growing and expanding being the only port city and was attracting migrations from parts of India and from all over Pakistan. However, what is now “Shahrah-e-Faisal” was then called Karachi-Malir Drigh Road.
Upon Nusrat Ali’s death, the plot 193-A was transferred to his widow, Mustafai Begum. In 1957, the (main) road (Drigh Road) next to this plot was proposed to be realigned to 240 ft. from 280 ft. As a result, 20 ft. on both sides were allotted to SMCHS by the Commissioner against consideration.
In 1958, SMCHA permitted allotment of an additional area of 20ft. bordering Plot No. A193 to Mustafai Begum. As a result, the area of the plot was increased to 1044 Sq. Yds. This is apparently the allotment that has been found illegal and without any basis by the apex court after more than sixty years as no modified lease from SMCHS has been found on record.
But the developer, that later erected Nasla Tower had purchased the property in the year 2005 after formalizing due compliances – as per standard conventions. No objections were received against the sale from any quarters, including government departments and the civic agencies.
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It is now believed that an amended lease could not be issued because there was a legal dispute on land that remained pending between Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and Sindhi Muslim Cooperative Housing Society (SMCHS). PTI after forming government had announced its intention to set up fast track courts for land grabbing cases for overseas Pakistanis and had promised these courts will settle matters within 30 days.
In addition, land grabbing has been added as a separate category into the Prime Minister’s citizen portal. It’s time that Imran Khan government, eager to boost construction sector, to strengthen economy should work with Supreme Court to create “Special Benches” in High Courts and Supreme Court for speedy disposal of land and construction cases. Let there be no more tragedies like the Nasla towers.
Courts Need to Be Strict in Cases Against Cartels
Cartels are a group of similar independent companies, who collude with each other to maximize their profits by controlling prices and limiting competition. The common residents, developers, and builders belonging to the two major urban hubs of Pakistan namely, Karachi and Hyderabad believe that today the country has an extremely powerful cartelization across almost all vital commodities.
These commodities include cement, steel and sugar among others, which is deeply effecting the economic health of the country. Especially cartelization in cement and steel, which are crucial components of the construction and development sector in the country, is affecting the economic activity in a very adverse fashion. The Competition Commission’s inquiry report on cement manufacturers from December last year laid bare how cartels manipulate prices to maximize profits at the detriment of consumers.
Since, whenever the Competition Commission of Pakistan institutes cases against these cartels (cement, steel and others), they are able to escape accountability scot-free. Achieving this with help from, teams of very expensive and smart lawyers, hired to obtain long stay orders from the courts, which can be extended for overwhelmingly long durations; at times, for several years. Making the whole exercise futile with nothing concrete being achieved in the end.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan should thus, take notice of this immediately and institute that the cases that are brought by the Competition Commission of Pakistan, are public Interest litigations that benefit public at large— thousands and hundreds of thousands of people —so, whenever there are cases brought by the Competition Commission of Pakistan against cartelization, there must not be long delays and stay orders by the courts to ameliorate this chronic issue.