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June 10, 2019

Sindh govt promises makeshift tents for people affected by KCR operation


June 10, 2019

The Sindh government has pledged that it will provide makeshift tents and mobile toilets to the people whose houses have been demolished in the ongoing anti-encroachment operation along the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) track.

An announcement to this effect was made by Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister on Information Murtaza Wahab as he spoke to media persons on Sunday outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) where civil society and labour rights activists had organised a demonstration to protest against the demolition of residential units in the anti-encroachment drive without providing alternative accommodations to the residents.

The Sindh government is standing by the people who have been affected due to the anti-encroachment drive, Wahab said, criticising the federal government for being apathetic about the sufferings of the affected people. “Governor Sindh’s home is nearby but he didn’t bother to address the issue,” he said.

The protest was organised in the form of a procession by the Joint Action Committee of the KCR’s affected people. The committee includes representatives of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (Piler), the Urban Resource Centre, Shehri, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the Aurat Foundation and the Urban Lab Karachi. The procession started from Regal Chowk and ended at the KPC.

When the protesters reached the KPC, they met Wahab and Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani who addressed the crowd. Wahab said it was necessary to comply with orders of the Supreme Court (SC). He, however, added that the provincial government would do whatever it could to rehabilitate the affected people.

The SC on May 9 had given 15 days to the Pakistan Railways to clear at least 50 feet along both sides of the railway track and hand it over to the Sindh government, which was told to operationalise the KCR in another 15 days.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Sindh government was very much part of the anti-encroachment operation, as it was a joint operation carried out by the Pakistan Railways and the district administration which included the relevant deputy and assistant commissioners. Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani was also involved in the operation as he addressed several news conferences to brief the media about details of the operation.

“[It is] most important that they [affected people] should be given tents

and mobile toilets for which the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has been given directions by the chief minister,” Wahab said.

He maintained that the authorities would start installing tents and toilets in the affected areas on Monday (today) for which the PDMA had initiated its work and the respective deputy commissioners had been directed to facilitate coordination.

According to the adviser, the Sindh government had a clear position that encroachments needed to be removed wherever there were. However, he said people should be rehabilitated first before their houses were demolished.

Regarding the anti-encroachment operation to take place on Monday (today) in Mujahid Colony, the local government minister said they would devise a strategy with the Pakistan Railways’ police and try to halt that operation.

Operation decried

The protesters held various placards in the procession inscribed with slogans criticising the federal and provincial governments. “Imran Khan aap ne ghar cheennay ka nahi dene ka wada kya tha [Imran Khan you promised to provide us homes, not to deprive us of them],” was one of the inscriptions on the placards.

Other placards read “Shelter is basic human right” and “Chhat kay badlay chhat do warna kursi choro [Give shelter in lieu of shelter, otherwise step down]”. The action committee head, Khan Badshah, said they did not want to be part of the conflict between the federal and provincial governments.

According to him, the reason behind their problems was the ongoing fight between the two tiers of the government. Badshah requested the SC to order the authorities to provide the affected people with alternative houses before continuing with the anti-encroachment operation. “We serve the entire city. We are your drivers, maids, gardeners and security guards,” he said, lamenting that people belonging to these low-income professions had been deprived of shelter.

More than 1,070 houses, he pointed out, had so far been demolished in the drive. “Should the residents of these razed homes go out to earn or find shelter for their children?” he asked. Samina Beghum, a resident of Quaid-e-Azam Colony who had lost her home, said the affected people wanted their right. “We aren’t begging for our houses. Shelter is our right,” she asserted as she addressed the rally.

Beghum said many affected families were living on the rubble of their houses. “We had around eight families that lived inside a small two-storey 80-square-yard house,” she explained, adding that after the house was demolished, everyone was living on the street. It was the 17th fast, she recalled, when her house was ruthlessly demolished without any prior notice.

A member of the action committee, Sagheer Ahmed, presented the protesters’ demand, which was an immediate provision of alternative accommodations to those who had lost their homes before the anti-encroachment operation was carried out further. Residents of Pakistan Quarters and Martin Quarters also attended the rally to express solidarity with the affected people of the KCR.

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