Karachi evictions are worse than Palestine’s destruction, says evicted woman
A woman from Gujjar nullah who lost her home, Mehreen Maria, shared what it feels like to be forcefully evicted from your own house. “We are in a constant state of mental and physical stress,” she said, “We are victims to the state’s terrorism.” She appealed to the authorities directly by stating their titles, including the Chief Justice of Pakistan. People will forget the torture in Kashmir and Palestine if they see our condition, she said.
The Joint Action Committee held a press conference on Tuesday, June 1 at the Karachi Press Club. They spoke in favour of the people evicted and asked the government to stop instantly.
The evictees live along the banks of Karachi’s main nullahs, stormwater drains, near Gujjar, Orangi, Manzoor Colony, Karachi Circular Railway, and ML-1.
“The first problem is that after every few years the policy changes,” Arif Hasan said. This affects the population a lot. Families keep getting evicted as the policy for nullahs changes from 50 feet to 80 feet, he said. After the heavy rains in 2020, it was decided that the width of the nullahs will be increased. This caused 15,000 families to be displaced.
“The size of Bahria Town equals Manhattan in New York,” Hasan said. The plans of settlement shown by construction sectors are fake. If they were real, so many people would not be suffering.
“Health includes mental and physical wellbeing,” said Dr Tipu Sultan. COVID-19 has jeopardized both aspects, he said. This is seen in increased suicide rates in Karachi, especially among white-collar workers. Evictions at a time when people are already facing financial instability are absurd, he said.
“Until substitute houses are made, people should not be evicted,” said Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Qazi Khizar. He explained that the destruction of 15,000 houses near the nullah should not be downplayed, because it shows that around 100,000 people are displaced. This is because on average six people live in one house.
The government has to create around 75,000 houses every year in order to effectively cater to the settlement needs of a growing population, Khizar said. They fail to consider the problems of the working class, he said.
The speakers demanded the following six rights from the government:
- All forced evictions must stop instantly. People who have lost houses must be compensated.
- Settlement plans must be perfected. The stay order issued by the Supreme Court must be obeyed.
- Demands of the committee formed by the Sindh government should be presented to the public. The opinion of the evicted people must be included.
- The illegal operations of Bahria Town must be stopped. Plans for the protection and development of Malir and Gadap Town should be made.
- All evicted people should be treated equally, and the quality of their compensations should not differ from person to person.
- The Supreme Court’s order to provide settlements to 1,100 families displaced near Karachi Circular Railway to be followed instantly.
The writer is an editorial intern at SAMAA Digital for Summer 2021. She is studying Social Development and Policy at Habib University, Karachi.
Published in SAMAA | Hafsa Amir Nawab – Jun 2, 2021