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December 8, 2018

MQM-Pakistan on defensive as Farooq Sattar accuses mayor of razing ‘legal’ establishments

Karachi

December 8, 2018

In a bid to advance on his former colleagues of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Dr Farooq Sattar, who was expelled from the MQM-P last month, has announced to hold a protest demonstration along with people affected by the ongoing anti-encroachment drive outside the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) Building on Saturday (today).

Dr Sattar accused Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar of inflicting misery on the poor, alleging that Akhar was among those who exploited the Supreme Court order against encroachments.

A large number of shops, markets and other spaces have been demolished so far during the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the city which is expected to extend from the thoroughfares to residential areas in its next phase. Among the worrisome are the residents of government quarters in the vicinity of Jahangir Road, Gurumandir and Teen Hatti, who, according to Dr Sattar, have until December 24 to vacate their houses.

Speaking to a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Friday, Dr Sattar claimed that he would be joined at the protest by the affected traders, small shopkeepers and hawkers as well as the people who feared that their houses would be targeted next.

According to the former MQM-P leader, many people who were deprived of their businesses and houses under the cover of the anti-encroachment drive lawfully possessed their shops and houses.

“The Karachi mayor and Sindh local bodies minister Saeed Ghani are misusing the SC orders as it directs removal of encroachments only, not the legal ones,” Dr Sattar said. “We have no objection to the order but in the case of such large scale operations, affectees be provided with alternatives in order to not let their economic systems collapse at once.”

Speaking of the shopkeepers of the Empress Market and its adjoining commercial areas, the former MQM-P leader said around 5,000 shopkeepers had regularly been paying rent to the KMC and had a contract lease up until 2027. “They should be relocated in District South, preferably at the Shahabuddin Market and Saddar parking plaza,” he demanded.

Dr Sattar lamented that around half a million people had lost their livelihoods due to the drive. Blaming his former colleagues of the MQM-P for having their hands in this, he said residents of Karachi, including Pakhtuns who had traditionally not been fans of MQM founder Altaf Hussain, had been forced to say that such an injustice would not have happened, had Altaf been at the helm of the party.

The former MQM-P leader also claimed that a loss of around Rs20 billion had been inflicted to businesspersons during the anti-encroachment operations.

Commenting on the issue of the residents of the government quarters, Dr Sattar said a three-month extension was never given to the residents in the deadline to vacate their houses as they had been asked to vacate their houses before December 24 in a fresh intimation from the authorities. “We are coming out on the streets from tomorrow and will not retreat until the houses are safe. This city is being forced towards unrest,” Dr Sattar remarked.

MQM-P responds

Meanwhile, the MQM-P leaders and the mayor have dismissed the impression that they exploited the judicial orders to get markets and houses vacated.

Responding to Dr Sattar’s announcement of holding a protest outside his office, the mayor said some pseudo politicians were trying to mislead the people to expand their political base. Akhtar maintained that he was just following the SC orders and had in his domain the removal of encroachments only from footpaths, nullahs and parks.

“The KMC doesn’t have the mandate to demolish houses as it is the job of the SBCA [Sindh Building Control Authority] which is under the Sindh government. The KMC on its part will relocate 1,400 shopkeepers in the first phase. And if any house is demolished, I will resign from my post in protest. Yet I ask CJP to revisit the matter to prevent the crisis from deepening,” the mayor said.

Later in the day, MQM-P Convener and Federal Information Technology Minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui addressed a press conference at the MQM-P headquarters. Defending the mayor, Dr Siddiqui said Akhtar had been ordered by the apex court to remove encroachments from roads and streets in the city. “And he fulfilled his responsibilities,” the MQM-P convener maintained.

Dr Siddiqui, however, clarified that some other institutions which did not come under the mayor, including the SBCA, were also taking part in the anti-encroachment drive. Such institutions are negatively affecting the campaign, the MQM-P convener said. He went on to claim that not even a single house was demolished by the KMC during the anti-encroachment drive.

The federal minister also asked the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to take notice of the losses in the drive and reconsider the matter on humanitarian grounds. He also requested the top judge to grant all the necessary powers to the mayor so that he could effectively deal with the issues of Karachi.

“I ask the CJP to get mayoral powers to Akhtar so the problems of the city could be addressed. The city’s population is understated, it has no adequate health and sanitation facilities while there’ve been attempts by some parties to capture it through Goth schemes,” Dr Siddiqi said.

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