Encroachments in Hafizabad city are multiplying day by day as the tehsil administration has miserably failed to eliminate the menace despite strict orders of the Punjab government to clear all the thoroughfares for smooth flow of traffic.
The TMA officials launched several anti-encroachment drives in the past but half-heartedly thus the encroachments have been further increased in the city.
According to a survey conducted by The Nation, encroachments on footpaths and roads are rapidly increasing day by day as the traders of the busiest roads have rented out space in front of their shops in clear violation of the rules. The TMA and the mafia, which includes so-called office-bearers of different trader organisations including pushcart (Rehri) union, some journalists and political workers, caused the increase in encroachments. They are minting money from the venders and pushcarts owners. Former chief justice of the Lahore High Court Khawaja Sharif had donated the old civil court premises to the TMA for the expansion of Kachehry road about five years back but the citizens could not benefi from the expansion of the road. About half of the road has been occupied by the venders or vehicle owners. The district and tehsil administrations have failed to demolish the old bar rooms which have been given by the LHC with the condition to convert it and its adjacent area into a recreational park.
The Fawara Chowk in the heart of the city has been occupied by fish and fruit vendors with the consent of some TMA officials who extort huge amount from them on daily and monthly basis. The stink emanating from the fish has become a constant nuisance for the pedestrians, shoppers and adjacent shopkeepers. So much so, the vendors leave huge stock of fish in the old bar room in the evening with “due permission” of the TMA.
The administration has spent millions of rupees on the construction of footpaths along the one-way old Kachehry Road so that the pedestrians particularly old persons, women and children can walk on but the TMA has “allotted” the footpaths to the vendors thus depriving the citizens of the facility.
The areas outside the main gate, Vanike Chowk, Vanike Road, Alipur Road, Gujranwala Road, Post Office Road, Railway Road, near General Bus Stand, Railway Gate, Hussainpura Chowk and even narrow Main Bazaar have been encroached upon by the venders with the connivance of some officials causing multiple problems for the citizens.
Moreover, illegal parking at some busy roads and establishment of unlawful rickshaw stands on the chowks and roads are causing traffic mess, mainly due to the negligence and incompetence of the TMA and traffic police. The two grain markets have been shifted to Madhrianwala Road to facilitate flow of smooth traffic in the city but the authorities particularly TMA and traffic police failed to ensure removal of traffic hazards on the busy roads.
In addition, the traffic police also failed to prevent driving of bikes by underage drivers who cause traffic mishaps in the city and its suburban areas. According to a survey, majority of fatal accidents are being occurred due to high-speed and reckless driving. No speed limit has been fixed for the bikers and tractor-trolleys. Furthermore, huge billboards are being erected atop the buildings and shops on most of the roads illegally with the complicity of TMA which is in constant danger to the human lives.
When contacted, a senior officer said that the removal of encroachments was a “sensitive task and cannot be tackled easily”.
The removal of encroachments particularly permanently is a Herculean Task. According to some senior citizens, the removal of encroachments in Hafizabad is a distant “dream” in the presence of some blue-eyed officials.