The city district government has directed the town municipal administrations (TMAs) to recheck areas that were cleared of encroachments earlier this year and remove those that have returned.
However, the orders do not extend to the Walled City and parts of Data Ganj Bakhsh Town. Though some of the densest areas in the city, these places were not touched during the drive against encroachments, and the city government appears to have no plans to do so in future either. This is largely due to the high number of merchants and businessmen in the area with strong political connections.
The city government started its anti-encroachment drive in March and cleared a lot of areas, but its staff later became busy with conducting Ramazan bazaars and then preventive measures against dengue. Many vendors slowly returned to the public spaces they were earlier removed from.
Now the TMAs have been ordered to check all the places that encroachments were removed from earlier in the year, though not the congested markets of Data Ganj Bakhsh Town.
In July, the then Data Ganj Bakhsh town municipal officer (TMO) and Ravi Town TMO took some action against encroachments in markets. But the merchants and shop owners contacted their MNAs and MPAs, most of them part of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and had the operations stopped. The TMOs were removed from their posts shortly after, emboldening the encroachers. As a consequence, Circular Road, Shah Alam Market, McLeod Road and Montgomery Road are chaotic and crowded and seemingly permanently jammed with traffic.
Tariq Zaman, principal staff officer to the district coordination officer, told The Express Tribune that now that the dengue outbreak was over, town staff had time to follow up on the anti-encroachment drive conducted earlier in the year. “We have given them one week to clear the roads, after which special monitoring teams of the city government will inspect the areas,” he said.
Zaman said that the city government would adopt a zero tolerance policy towards encroachments on roads.
He said that the city government would enter areas of Walled City and Data Ganj Bakhsh Town after conducting the follow-up checks in areas cleared earlier.
“The Walled City and markets in DGBT are more difficult to handle. They require much more force and machinery,” he said. However, Zaman did not give a date, or even what month such operations in the Walled City would begin.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2011.
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