Dispossessed in Karachi

THE PPP continues to trot out the ‘roti, kapra aur makaan’ slogan whenever it wants to project a ‘people-friendly’ image. However, the party that rules Sindh is shamefully dragging its feet on providing shelter to the Karachi residents displaced by the Supreme Court-ordered demolition of their homes last year in order to revamp the Orangi nullah. Despite the passage of one year, the provincial government has not even determined a site for the people’s rehabilitation. Two local organisations held a joint protest on Friday outside the Karachi Press Club to draw attention to the authorities’ apathy. The SC gave the government two years to resettle those affected by the demolition exercise but considering that nothing has been done on that front, one may be sure that scores of families will continue to exist in limbo. Their lifeline for now is the rent payments the Sindh government is making to them, but the process has been inconsistent.

It is mind-boggling how those entitled to well-appointed government residences cannot spare a thought for those dispossessed of their homes, despite having documentation for their property in many instances. Pakistan has long been an inequitable society. But in recent years, the builders’ lobby in cahoots with those in the corridors of power has come to typify elite capture in the country. Unfortunately, some of the apex court’s decisions have further deepened the chasm between the haves and the have-nots. For example, it ordered that no action be taken against the influential characters, including provincial revenue officials, it found complicit in illegally acquiring thousands of acres of land on Karachi’s outskirts and the construction therein remained untouched. Meanwhile, the shops around the city’s Empress Market were bulldozed and Nasla Tower was torn down. It is about time the government took steps to allay the impression that unscrupulous builders are having a field day in Karachi at the cost of the city’s creaking infrastructure and its less-fortunate residents.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2022