Civil society asks federal, Sindh govts to stop forced evictions

Members of the Joint Action Committee have asked the federal and provincial governments to stop forced evictions and halt their anti-encroachment operations in various parts of Karachi due to the ongoing pandemic.

The United Nations has also urged the governments of different countries to halt forced evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic and help those who are not able to pay their home rents.

To show solidarity with the affected people of the anti-encroachment drive that has been underway for the two years, members of the civil society last year held a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.

The Joint Action Committee includes Urban Resource Center’s Arif Hasan, the Pakistan Medical Association’s Dr Tipu Sultan, the Home-Based Workers Federation’s Zehra Khan and PILER’s Karamat Ali.

Speakers said the lives of all of us have been affected due to Covid-19; however, the low-income class of the city has been affected the most by the pandemic. The most vulnerable, even among the low-income class, are those who don’t have any shelter to live or live in katchi abadis. They said these are areas where there are no basic facilities, such as water, sanitation and electricity. Residents of these areas don’t even have any permanent employment. These people are living under the fear of being homeless due to the massive anti-encroachment operation being conducted by the government.

The United Nations has requested countries to stop forced evictions due to the pandemic for a while, and to help those tenants who are unable to pay their house rents during the

pandemic.

The Joint Action Committee said several nations have implemented these recommendations of the United Nations. However, whatever is happening in Pakistan is completely opposite to the United Nations’ recommendations. The process of demolition of houses in katchi abadis are progressing every day because of the pandemic.

In Karachi, around 4,000 houses have been demolished during the anti-encroachment operations. In these operations, 45,000 were forcibly evicted. The Joint Action Committee asked to imagine how the residents of these houses had been sitting on the rubble for the last many months without, power, gas and water, that too during the pandemic. These demolitions, according to the Joint Action Committee, took place on court directions.

The Supreme Court in its order has directed the authorities to provide one-year time to the residents of such settlements and also relocate them properly. Two years have passed since the Supreme Court’s relocation decision, but the authorities have failed to come up with any alternative residential scheme.

After last year’s massive and unprecedented rainfalls, the provincial government decided to widen the width of different rain drains in Karachi. Due to this decision, approximately 15,000 families will be made homeless. The affected people’s opinions about widening the width of the nullahs was never ascertained.

The Joint Action Committee pointed out how the demolition of these houses continued during various religious festivals of the Muslims, Hindus, Christians and other minorities living in these areas. Due to these operations, the Urban Resource Center, found out that 70-per cent of the residents lost their jobs as they used to work on a contract basis. Approximately, the education of 3,000 students got affected because of the operation.

The Joint Action Committee demanded immediately stopping the forced evictions and those who had already been made homeless must be provided with the decent alternative residence. The stay order given by the Sindh High Court must also be implemented and the government should immediately start working on alternative residents of those who needed to be displaced due to such operations in future. The recommendations of residents must be taken by the committee formed for the alternative residence of affected people.

Published in The News Staff Reporter June 02, 2021

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