No relocation yet

The basic contract between a state and its citizens is that the former will care for all of its needs

The basic contract between a state and its citizens is that the former will care for all of its needs. In exchange, the residents will be provided with a set of rights, provided they uphold their promise of abiding by a set of responsibilities such as following the law and paying taxes. But in practice, all the land and lives in the country seemingly belong to the state which does not owe anything back to its citizens — the basic unitary component of any state.

Hundreds of poor people, who have sunk all of their earnings in keeping a small thatch over their heads have been rendered homeless on the pretext of anti-encroachment operations along the Gujjar and Korangi nullahs of Karachi. Affectees speaking at a news conference at the Karachi Press Club recently claimed that the operations caused at least two people to die of heart attacks over losing their homes. They said the operations affected communities who were about to celebrate their respective religious festivals.

The operation that came months after a similar operation, carried out on the orders of the Supreme Court, rendered hundreds homeless for daring to live on land that was earmarked for a non-existent circular railway. This is what epitomises the failures of the state. An aspect that was ignored completely was that the court had ordered the state to “relocate” the affectees of the circular railway operation rather than just make them homeless. Unfulfilled were empathetic vows from powerful politicians of giving a roof to these people.

This country has too long been swayed on the promise of providing housing to the growing ranks of poor, feeding the hungry and clothing the destitute. But all it has done towards the fulfilment of that promise is to sell an illusion to the masses, robbing them instead of everything they had. Many in this city, who live in their palatial mansions, may feel removed from this tragedy. This is the real slumber from which we have to rise and seek a new contract where the state is subservient to its people and break our colonial chain.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2021.

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