Civil society asks Sindh Govt to protect people’s rights in policies

KARACHI-Members of civil society and development activists on Wednesday called upon the provincial government of Sindh to protect the interests of the common people in the development projects being initiated in various parts of the province.

The consultation meeting was held to discuss Sindh Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2022 and was organized by the National Commission for Human Rights, Urban Resource Centre and The Knowledge Forum at NCHR Office. NCHR Member (Sindh) Anis Haroon chaired the meeting, whereas noted urban planner and veteran architect Arif Hassan, Shehri’s Amber Alibhai, Urban Resource Centre’s Zahid Farooq, Karachi Urban Lab’s Muhammed Toheed, Director, senior trade union leader Habibuddin Junaidi, TKF Director Ms Zeenia Shaukat, Uzma Noorani of HRCP, human rights activist Zulfiqar Shah, Yasir Hussain and others attended the meeting.

Speaking on the occasion, senior architect Arif Hasan the Sindh Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2022 does not solve the overall problems of the local people.

According to him for developing a policy a detailed background paper is developed first. Before the finalization of any policy, a detailed discussion needs to be held at district levels. “In my view, this policy is made only for World Bank projects,” remarks Arif Hasan.  The biggest problem in all government policies is the non-availability of institutional arrangements. Civil society has to struggle for institutional arrangements.

Urban planner Muhammed Tauheed said in December the Sindh government had invited some civil society organisations on very short notice. But we realized that the government is not taking civil society in confidence.  Ms Amber Alibhai of Shehri said that her organization had asked the government to hold consultation meetings in other parts of Sindh. This document needs to be reviewed by all stakeholders.

According to her, any government policy should only be for public sector projects and not for private sector projects. She asked civil society and rights organisations to submit valuable recommendations on this policy.

In Karachi, thousands of families were displaced due to KCR and other development projects. Now 3.5 years have passed after SC decided to provide alternative residents to the affected families.

Leela Ram, an advocate from Tharparkar said in Thar a resettlement policy was made for the affected people of coal-fired power plants. However, he regretted that no implementation was not there in Thar coal areas.

Habibuddin Junaidi said we are experiencing bad governance for decades. We have not learnt from history. The present government is trying to solve flood affected people’s problems, he said.

Zulfiqar Shah said the Sindh government released the policy on 30th January and published an ad in the newspapers. The government has invited civil society’s views. Our friends in Hyderabad also consulted in Hyderabad.

He called upon civil society to work together. Since the floods hit Sindh, the policy must reflect the issues of the affected people.  We suggest a committee of four people including Zeenia, Tauheed, Yasir and one female should draft a recommendation for this meeting.

He said relevant departments like P&D should be sent in person and we also public, next week. We should also release recommendations on social media.

A Parliamentary Committee led by Rehana Leghari is also working on this issue so civil society should focus to meet Parliamentary Committee.

Published in The Nation 24 Feb 2023