KDA defends Mujahid Colony demolitions as URC, residents highlight ‘excesses’

The Urban Resource Center (URC) has released an open letter regarding the ongoing demolitions of around 70-year-old houses in Mujahid Colony near Ziauddin Hospital in North Nazimabad during the last two months.

The residents argue how they were settled in the area in Ayub Khan’s era and they had all the required no-objection certificates (NOCs) and leases from the governmental departments. Several migrants from India after the Partition had moved to Khuda Bux Colony near Mazar-e-Quaid. In Khan’s era, the residents shared how they were legally moved to Mujahid Colony in 1960s and now their settlements were being destroyed.

Meanwhile, according to the Karachi Development Authority (KDA), some 400 houses are being demolished in the area. The authority said Mujahid Colony was constructed on a piece of road which as per the original master plan was 150-foot wide, but due to the construction of illegal settlements, the width of the road had been reduced to 30 feet only.

URC’s Seema Liaquat in the letter wrote how demolitions had been going on in Mujahid Colony and this particular case, were different from the usual demolitions. She said the demolitions were happening forcefully without a reason.

The URC pointed out how no development plan had been announced by governmental sources as grounds for the clearing up of land, nor had there been a survey conducted in the area. The colony’s residents had not been provided with any written or verbal promise of an alternative means of housing in the face of their settlements being mercilessly destroyed.

The URC team made regular visits to the area and met victims. During the visits, she said some heart-wrenching facts came into their notice. The process of demolishing homes, as per the URC letter, has to have some rules and regulations — “unlike what is happening at Mujahid Colony right now.” The demolitions is not a debate about the legality or illegality of the settlements but about human rights, “especially women’s rights, and the violation of their sanctity.”

It is imperative for this case to be dealt with on the basis of human rights and for police brutality to come to an end. If this does not happen, she stressed, no one would be able to raise their voice for their rights in this country.

“For the last two months, the news of demolitions in Mujahid Colony have been doing rounds, where a settlement of over 70 years has been razed,” she said, adding that a large contingent of police used tear gas in this process of unjustified and forced eviction, due to which, two children died, and many injured people arrived at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.

Some women, she said, also had miscarriages. “A child fell into a tank and died as a result of his house collapsing. There was no one to wipe the residents’ tears in this situation. So far, more than 600 buildings have been demolished,” she said. All this destruction is being done merely to widen the access road to the Ziauddin Hospital.

On November 21, male and female police officers surrounded the area, fired tear gas, and locked up the mosque and houses. In this situation, she said, people came out to help each other. When the women protested, the police lashed them with batons. Evidence of this, she said, was present in form of a video.

Another girl was manhandled by a policeman and placed inside the police van. Three girls were taken to the Nazimabad No 4 police station, and from there to the Liaquatabad women police station. There was no distinction between the behaviour of the male and female police officers as far as inflicting violence was concerned.

There has been no condemnation or statement from any governmental official on the tragedy. Only a couple of media people raised their voices about it. “The sort of police brutality we have seen here was unheard of for women until now. We have never seen this happening anywhere. Do we not need to try and stop these police officers? Will we not take up this incident and the helplessness of these girls with those who are responsible to ensure justice?” she asked, adding that if they stay silent right now, there would come a time when every girl would be frightened.

A resident of Mujahid Colony, Nazakat Ali Raj, who is also representing the colony’s residents on legal forums shared how they had been living in the area since 70 years. Raj has also served as a councillor on the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) ticket in Niamatullah Khan’s era.

He shared how his father migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and started living in an unplanned settlement near the Mazar-e-Quaid in Khuda Bux Colony. It was military dictator Ayub Khan era in which the Khuda Bux Colony residents were moved to Mujahid Colony and they were given leases by the Sindh Katchi Abadi department. He said how before the demolitions took place, the houses in the area were of Rs20 million at least.

Raj lamented how they were forced to live on the rubble of their houses and the government had not offered any sort of compensation to them. An official of Karachi Development Authority (KDA) confirmed to The News that under their original master plan, the road where the colony is situated was supposed to be 150-foot wide. After the construction of illegal settlements over the years, the official shared the width of the road had narrowed down to 30 feet.

The passage of the road where demolitions are taking place goes to Namak Bank near Nagan Chowrangi from Ziauddin Hospital, while the other end of the road touches Nazimabad No7. The official explained how traffic woes of the area would be resolved once the road is rehabilitated in its original width. When asked about the compensation, the official responded the leases that residents were showing had no record with the KDA and Katchi Abadi department.

Published in The News 10 Dec 2023