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April 17, 2021

Residents demand immediate halt to KMC operations along Gujjar, Orangi nullahs

Karachi

April 17, 2021

The Karachi Bachao Tehreek has demanded immediately halting the “illegal anti-encroachment operation” at the Gujjar and Orangi nullahs.

Addressing a news conference at the Karachi Press Club on Friday, its members also demanded that the people affected by the operation be provided with alternative accommodation as per a Supreme Court order, and not a Rs90,000 cheque.

Since February, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) anti-encroachment department has illegally demolished thousands of leased houses constructed at a little distance from Gujjar and Orangi storm water drains, they said, adding that thousands of such more houses were to be demolished by the corporation in the future.

They said these houses were being demolished in light of the Supreme Court order against encroachments, but they pointed out that the apex court had never ordered demolishing leased houses.

The Supreme Court’s order clearly mentions that each and every family has to be provided an alternative residence where water, gas, electricity, job opportunities and all other basic facilities are available, said the Karachi Bachao Tehreek’s team.

They said that due to their public awareness campaign, few residents reached out to Karachi Bachao Tehreek’s legal team and obtained a stay order from tribunals, which proved that all the leases were legal.

The anti-encroachment department of the KMC, according to the complainants, was not issuing any notice or showing any document to the affected families. “Those who demand legal notice or any legal document are subjected to police brutality,” they alleged.

In February when residents surrounding both the rain drains protested, the law enforcement agencies arrested several youths of the area during a night operation and warned them of severe consequences. After this, at several occasions, they said, several leaders and workers of the Karachi Bachao Tehreek were also arrested.

They said the residents were being told that whatever was happening was “at the behest of Karachi’s corps commander and that is why they must remain silent”. However, they said, the corps commander had never issued any statement in this regard.

Several renowned researchers and urban planners had pointed out that the purpose of the project was to mint money out of the World Bank and provide monetary benefit to realtors and the builder mafia of the city, they said, adding that the sad state of affairs was that the area residents at several occasions had tried to lodge complaints against the anti-encroachment department, the deputy commissioner’s office and several other officials against the injustice, but the police had always refused to even receive such complaints.

During a global pandemic when the in entire world people without shelters were being provided with shelter, in Karachi, thousands of people were being deprived of homes, they said. The legal team of the Karachi Bachao Tehreek, they said, was ready to raise this issue in the Supreme Court and the Sindh High Court.

On the other hand, the anti-encroachment department was demolishing even those leased houses on which legal notice had been pasted that they had obtained an stay order or were waiting for a hearing from court, they said, adding that KMC officials, when earlier asked not to demolish their houses, responded that they had to work in haste so that during Ramazan they did not get overburdened.

Advocate Abira Ashfaq pointed out that those who had received Rs90,000 cheques were being deprived of their houses along with those who had not received any cheques. The biggest injustice, she said, was with those who had gone to court and were waiting for their hearing but their houses were still being demolished.