Monday, November 15, 2010

ARDESHIR COWASJEE ARTICES : Jehangir Park and its ‘dismal state’

To recap, here is the story of the struggle to restore this historic park, a true lung of Karachi, to its former utterly non-dismal state. On March 13, 2006 I addressed a letter to Sindh Chief Secretary Fazlur Rahman, a caring man:

“The men working under you are about to chop trees planted a hundred years ago in what is now known as Jehangir Park, Saddar. The park with the trees nurtured therein was donated to the people of Karachi by Khan Bahadur Behramjee Jehangirjee Rajkotwala in 1893. Parks cannot be destroyed. This has been ruled by the incumbent chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, and other wise judges.

“The affected and the aggrieved people of Pakistan, and particularly those who will be affected, intend moving the courts, seeking the preservation of trees and this park.

“I spoke to you yesterday and you promised that you would ensure that the philistines do not chop the trees. Thank you. The nazims of all sorts resident in Karachi are away cutting ribbons. I cannot reach them. Help!”

Copies were sent to the chief justice of Pakistan (who can hear the trees) and to the chief justice of Sindh. The CJP took suo moto action and on March 27, 2006 passed the following order:

“Treat as petition u/s 184(3) of the Constitution. Fix it in Court on 05.04.06. Notice to Chief Secretary, Government of Sindh, City Nazim, Advocate-General, Attorney General for Pakistan may please be issued. In the meantime, Chief Secretary is directed to ensure that no tree of Jehangir Park is cut down nor park is used for any other purpose pending decision on petition.”

The case came up for hearing in Islamabad on April 5 (Suo Motu Case 03/06) and as read a headline on April 6 in this newspaper ‘Parking lot plan dropped’. The CDGK, once more in its finite wisdom, had informed the Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry sitting with Justices Mian Shakirullah Jan and Syed Jamshed Ali that it had “abandoned its plan to build a multi-storey car parking facility in Jehangir Park grounds”.

In its order, the court directed “...that although the project has been abandoned for the reasons mentioned in the statement, the city government is restrained from converting the same in future to any other use save in accordance with the law. However, in terms of the judgment which has been relied upon, the city district government is ordered to restore the status of the public park and develop the same accordingly”.

CJP Chaudhry had the previous year acted in defence of Islamabad’s environment where a citizens’ park was to be converted into a commercial mini-golf course, so that a handful of persons, from the public and private sectors, could make a lot of money.

Having heard Constitutional Petition 36/05, CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry and Justices Mian Shakirullah Jan and Saiyed Saeed Ashhad ordered:

“Under Article 26 of the Constitution, it is the fundamental rights of the citizens to have access to public places of entertainment or resorts. As per the socio-financial status of the citizens of Pakistan the majority of the public is not in a position to afford the luxury of joining mini-golf courses along with their children and subject to the payment of tickets, etc.”

Moving on to Oct 28, 2009, the NGO-Shehri wrote a letter to Mr Javed Hanif, district coordination officer, CDGK: “Re : Jehangir Park in Saddar. Judgment of Supreme Court in Suo Moto Case No.3 of 2006. We draw your attention to the operative part of the above judgment (copy attached) delivered by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on 5th April 2006, ‘...the City District Government is directed to restore the status of the public park and develop the same accordingly’.

“Over the past 3-1/2 years, the directive has been observed in the breach. The condition of Jehangir Park continues to deteriorate every day as can be seen from the attached photographs. You are requested to ensure that your Parks Director undertakes development and upgrading of the park for the benefit of the citizens of Karachi in compliance with the order.”

A second letter on the same subject was written by Shehri to the chief secretary of Sindh on Jan 23, 2010: “May we request you to assist the CDGK in restoring and developing Jehangir Park? We understand from Minister Shazia Marri’s statement reported in the press on 29/5/09 that the provincial and federal governments have earmarked Rs.100 million for the purpose.”

Attached to this letter was a copy of the letter written to the DCO-CDGK on Oct 28, 2009 and the chief secretary was advised that the SC order had not yet been complied with.

Today, Jehangir Park stands desolate, untended, uncared for. One is sadly reminded of the famous US Supreme Court case Worcester v Georgia 31 US (6Pet) 515 (1832). When the court, under Chief Justice John Marshall, ruled that the state of Georgia had no right to forcibly remove the Cherokee from their land, President Andrew Jackson, acting on behalf of the state of Georgia, is said to have replied: “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”

Chief Justice Chaudhry has done his bit, now let the government of Sindh and the administration of Karachi enforce his order. In this land of ‘the pure’ there will always be more grabbers than savers. Can the ‘meek’ not speak up?

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