‘Identify officials who allowed encroachments, issued illegal leases’

‘Identify officials who allowed encroachments, issued illegal leases’

Members of the civil society’s joint action committee and the Urban Resource Centre (URC) have demanded to constitute an independent commission to monitor the anti-encroachment operations, and identify the officials under whose supervision not only did the encroachments take place but illegal leases were also issued.

The joint action committee held a news conference on Thursday to express their views about the forced evictions of the people living near the Gujjar and Orangi storm water drains.

URC’s Zahid Farooqui said on the occasion that they have always brought the evictions of 14,000 families into the notice of the federal and Sindh governments as well as the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) officers. He said that in the past one month more than 7,000 houses have been demolished in the name of anti-encroachment operations.

These houses, he said, were demolished on the orders of the Supreme Court, but in the same order the court had ordered rehabilitating the residents of those houses. “The Supreme Court has given written orders that all the affected people should be rehabilitated with the basic necessities.”

In its June 14, 2021 order the SC had said that the rehabilitation of the affected people is the responsibility of the Sindh government. The federal and provincial governments were supposed to rehabilitate all the victims of the anti-encroachment operations within a year, but sadly, he said, the government has not paid any heed to the issue.

In one of its orders of May 9, 2019 the SC had directed the authorities to rehabilitate 1,100 families to be affected by the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project. “The relevant officials didn’t pay any heed to this order of the Supreme Court,” he said.

The affected families, he said, are sitting on the rubble of their demolished houses. No government agency, he pointed out, even spoke to these families. On behalf of the civil society and the affected people, advocate Faisal Siddiqui had submitted a request on contempt of court in the SC that has not been heard to date.

He pointed out that while addressing those affected by the massive rain at KDA Chowrangi, North Nazimabad, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had announced on September 6, 2020 that the provincial government would not evict anyone until they provides them with alternative housing.

He also pointed out that during winter there will be no one to help these homeless families in the city. The education of children, he said, is on stake, while the economic activities of women have also halted.

The joint action committee demanded devising a thorough plan for the rehabilitation of the families affected by KCR, Gujjar Nullah and Orangi Nullah. They also demanded that the government constitute an independent commission to monitor the entire anti-encroachment operation.

They said the commission should also identify the officials under whose supervision not only did the encroachments take place but illegal leases were also issued, adding that the commissioner should advise regarding legal action against such officers.

They said the commission should also carry out a fresh survey of the affected people so that they could be rehabilitated immediately. They pointed out that the current list of the affected people does not have the name of several genuine victims, rather there are several fake names on the list.

As for the rehabilitation, they said that there should be a monitoring committee in which the affected people should also be given representation. The forced eviction in the traditional villages of Gadap Town and Malir should be stopped immediately, they added.

A person affected by the Gujjar Nullah operation said that their elders had been dragged out of their homes and not been given the opportunity to collect their valuables, while KMC officials demolished their homes in front of their eyes.

“We spent Ramazan on roads,” he said, adding that they were told that their houses were demolished on the orders of the SC. “We were told that we will be given two years’ rent and housing as well, but now we’re running from pillar to post and being told that we’re not registered with the KMC.”

Arsalan, who has been affected by the Orangi Nullah operation, said that the court’s order on which houses are being demolished also talks about rehabilitation, but the government has no plans for that.

“We have always demanded our right to land since the demolition started,” he said, adding that the SC had given a year’s time for rehabilitation, but the provincial government did not seem serious about it.

Advocate Khawaja Altaf said that there is clearly double standards in the orders of the SC. He said that on the one hand illegal housing societies are being regularised, but on the other, these poor affected families are left on their own. The Pakistan Bar Council and the high court bar, he said, are asking the SC about their double standards.

Published in The News By Staff Reporter 15 October 2021

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