The allotment of 20-feet-wide pieces of land on both sides of Sharae Faisal towards the Sindhi Muslim Cooperative Housing Society (SMCHS) in 1957 has become a bone of contention ever since the Nasla Tower case has emerged.
There’s a dispute between the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and the SMCHS regarding the subleasing of plots, including the subleasing of the additional chunks of land allotted to the plots, facing towards Sharae Faisal, from the 20-feet-wide pieces of land.
The SMCHS shared with The News the details of the 35 plots facing the main artery that were allotted additional land. They had never subleased the additional land to most of those plots on which high-rises have been constructed over the years.
Plot No A-193, on which the Nasla Tower is built, is among those plots. In June, the Supreme Court had ordered the tower’s demolition due to its illegal construction on a service road, telling the builders to refund the registered buyers of the residential and commercial units within three months.
On December 27, 1957, then chief commissioner of Karachi, had allotted 20-feet-wide strips of land on both sides along the main Karachi-Malir Road (now Sharae Faisal) to the SMCHS.
According to the top court’s June order directing the incumbent city commissioner to demolish the Nasla Tower, Sharae Faisal was proposed to be 280-feet-wide in 1950, but after the allotment (of the 20-feet-wide strips on both sides), it was reduced to 240 feet.
This additional area is claimed to have been allotted by the SMCHS to then plot owner of No. A-193. The area of the plot was allegedly increased from 780 sq yards to 1,044 sq yards.
“It is significant to note,” reads the SC order, “that this additional 264 sq yards was not incorporated either in the original amended lease or in any subsequent lease deed.”
SMCHS Secretary Shuaib Alam told the publication that there were 34 other plots that were allotted more or less the same additional square yards and were never subleased by society, as there was a dispute between the housing society and the KMC.
By February 19, 2010, the SMCHS had further acceded transferring “excess/encroached” land of 77 sq yards to the Nasla Tower’s plot owner, making the plot’s total area 1,121 sq yards. This additional transfer also lacks a lease deed, and the SC has declared the additional 341 sq yards completely illegal.
The then chief commissioner’s 1957 notification of the allotment of the alignment land also makes no mention of any direction to allot the strip of land to any of the plot holders.
The SMCHS secretary is of the opinion that back then, the service road was unallotted, unutilised and unsurveyed. He says the society has the power to transfer additional land to any plot owner, so the front plot owners of Sharae Faisal were transferred the additional 20-feet-wide strip.
Alam shared a list of plots all the way from the Nasla Tower to Kala Pul that were allotted additional 20-feet-wide strips, and on the opposite side, starting from the Sharae Quaideen Bridge all the way to the TRG Building.
Plots No A-193 (Nasla Tower), A-192, A-191, A-190, A-189 and A-188 were allotted more or less 264 sq yards. Plot no A-115, A-114, A-113, A-112, A-111 and A-110, A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, A-5 and A-6, and B-17, B-9 and B-8 were also allotted additional land.
On the opposite side of the road, starting from where the Sharae Quaideen Flyover ends, plots No B-102, B-101, B-100, B-99, B-98 and B-97 were allotted additional land. Plots No B-29, B-28, B-27, B-26, B-25 and B-24, and B-6 and B-5 were also allotted additional land.
The SMCHS official shared that a few of the plots had been subleased in the past. For instance, the owner of plot No B-4, Samiullah Moghal’s father Habibullah Moghal, according to Alam, got the additional area leased when he was the housing society’s secretary.
When The News contacted Samiullah, he confirmed that all plots facing towards Sharae Faisal had been allotted additional land by the SMCHS. He said that back in the 1960s, a few of the plot owners had gotten the additional area subleased by the society.
According to Alam, plot No B-98 and B-97 had also been subleased sometime in the past, saying that there could be other plots on the list that could have gotten the lease.
The problem with the sublease, according to an official of the KMC’s land department, is that the SMCHS, comprising a total of 306,400 sq yards, paid 25% of the lease cost to the municipal body.
The official explained that most of the housing societies under the administrative control of the KMC were granted leases against some monetary cost, and the societies subleased plots in those societies to the allottees. But the SMCHS paid only 25% against the lease cost, and the matter ended up in the Sindh High Court.
The KMC, according to the SMCHS secretary, demanded payment of the rest of the lease amount as per the 2002 market rate, but the society insisted on paying the amount decided in 1954, when the land had been allotted to them.
According to the SMCHS, in 1962 and 1963, they had already made payments of the additional 20-feet-wide strips on both sides of Sharae Faisal to the KMC.
Unless the society pays the lease amount of the entire society land, said the KMC official, the SMCHS cannot sublease any plot. Alam agrees with it, and argues that whatever subleases of the plots have been carried out in the past have no legal standing.
Advocate Salahuddin of the Nasla Tower shared that the issue of the subleasing of the additional land to the other plots by the SMCHS had been brought in front of the apex court, and they had also shared drone footage of the other buildings that were constructed on the additional allotted land.
The court, he said, could have ordered to get the additional land leased with some fine, but they ordered to demolish the building. The subleasing could have solved the problem once and for all.
It is, however, pertinent to mention here that the Nasla Tower builder had further “encroached” 77 sq yards other than the additional 264 sq yards it was allotted in 1957, and the SC had declared the entire additional 341 sq yards completely illegal.
The Nasla Tower management committee has already announced that they will file a new petition in the top court against all those 35 plots that the SMCHS has allotted additional land on Sharea Faisal, which is around 264 sq yards for each plot.
The committee’s Chairman, Muhammad Ali, told The News that hotels, multi-storey buildings, offices and shops are situated on this additional 264 sq yards. “We will take everyone to court now!”