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February 18, 2020

Decent houses demanded for families affected by KCR, ML-1

Karachi

February 18, 2020

An all-party conference (APC) on Monday demanded that the federal, provincial and city authorities provide decent alternative residential facilities to all the families affected by the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) in accordance with the May 2019 orders of the Supreme Court.

The resolution passed at the conference, which was organised by the joint action committee of the KCR affectees in collaboration with the Arts Council, read that the country’s top court had ordered the revival of KCR within a year and the provision of decent alternative houses to the families that had been affected by the project.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research Executive Director Karamat Ali presided over the APC, while urban town planner Arif Hasan was the keynote speaker of the event.

Following the SC’s orders, more than a thousand of the over 4,500 estimated houses have so far been removed from the land of the KRC project.

Residents of all those houses have been forced to live in tents set up among the debris of their former homes and without any essential facilities. There are no toilets or water or gas supplies, but families are still living there, stated the resolution.

More than 10,000 houses are feared to be demolished from the land of ML-1 (Main Line 1, or the Karachi-Lahore-Peshawar railway line) to run high-speed trains. The project is being developed as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Only the poor suffering

Hasan said the government has demolished thousands of shops and houses of only the poor on the SC’s orders, but it has not taken any measures to rehabilitate the affected families and shopkeepers.

He said the properties of political or influential people or government officials have not been touched on the top court’s orders, adding that only the poor have been suffering losses worth billions of rupees.

He recalled that the court had issued an order on September 18, 2018 to restore the beauty of Karachi that it had possessed long ago.

Since then, he pointed out, the provincial and city authorities have demolished over 6,000 shops in different parts of the city, rendering 12,000 to 14,000 workers unemployed.

Around the Empress Market in Saddar alone, more than 1,800 shops have been demolished, which has affected the jobs of 6,500 workers. Three markets around Saddar were selling tea, dried fruits and eggs, and their turnover was over Rs12 billion a year, he said.

Hasan said the Sindh High Court had also ordered on October 20, 2018 to remove encroachments around all business centres and on main roads. Over 40,000 notices have been served so far and encroachments around canals have been removed.

He fears that the major ML-1 project will also create more problems for the poor. He said Karachi has been neglected in the past and the government has failed to provide bus terminals, warehouses and houses to the city.

Action against land mafia

Sindh Assembly opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi said that before demolishing encroachments, strict action should be taken against those who had allowed them in the first place. “The land mafia people should be caught first,” he said.

“Around 1,000 plots are encroached upon through china cutting every day because the governments have not stopped it,” he said, adding that encroachments on both public and private properties should be discouraged.

Naqvi said he will appear before the SC on the next hearing scheduled for February 21. He said KCR is a multi-billion-dollar project, adding that it will take three years to complete the finance close.

He demanded that until KCR’s financial close is not completed, the houses to be affected should not be removed. He asked Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad to demolish encroachments in Rawalpindi before focusing on Karachi.

All-party support

The Pakistan Peoples Party’s former Karachi president Najmi Alam said that all political parties should support the affected families. He asked all the people to gather outside the top court’s building this Friday.

Former city mayor Dr Farooq Sattar said the residents of 4,268 quarters of the Pakistan Secretariat were promised of being provided ownership rights, but the SC on June 9, 2018 ordered to get the quarters vacated. On October 24 that year the police had tried to evict the residents.

“I was there to support the people who were resisting, and the police registered 17 FIRs including one against me,” he said, adding that the top court later ordered to settle the issue with mutual understanding.

He asked the people to stand up against injustices and resist the demolition drive. “We will stand with you [in the SC] on February 21,” he added.

Alternative houses

Advocate Kazmi, the legal adviser for the joint action committee of the KCR affectees, said the top court had ordered the railways secretary and the provincial and city authorities to provide decent residential facilities to the affected families in the city. He asked why the orders are not being implemented.

He said that under the Japan International Cooperation Agency project, over 4,500 houses were identified and declared as registered for the affected families, adding that the government had provided certificates to the affected families.

Mehboob Elahi, a representative of the families affected by the ML-1 project, said 4,653 people will be affected. “They have marked without a survey. The Railways wants to grab lands in the name of KCR. A fresh survey should be conducted of the affected people.”

The Grand Democratic Alliance’s lawmaker Nusrat Sehar Abbasi said she will raise the issue in the Sindh Assembly. She demanded that the provincial government provide the affected families with alternative land.

Plight of the affected

The Urban Resource Centre’s Seema Liaquat highlighted the plight of the affected families, especially women. “There are no toilets in the areas where their homes have been demolished.”

She said that more than 80 houses in the Quaid-e-Azam Colony were demolished and families are still living among the debris because they had not been provided alternative houses.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Co-chairperson Uzma Noorani said the provision of shelter and security is the main responsibility of the state, but the present government has failed to provide them.

Nazeer Jan of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Khurram Ali Nayyar of the Awami Workers Party, Hissamul Haq of the Qaumi Mahaz-e-Azadi, Abdul Khaliq Junejo of the Jeay Sindh Mahaz, Azhar Ali Hamdani of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation among others also spoke on the occasion.