June 13th, 2021
On the June 6, the Sindh Action Committee (SAC) called for a protest demonstration in front of the main gate of Bahria Town against the alleged illegal expropriation of villagers from their ancestral land by Bahria Town Karachi’s administration.
The protest was attended by residents of various affected goths, nationalist parties, civil society organizations, and common citizens from all walks of life. According to the protesters, the police stopped their caravans at Jamshoro, Hyderabad, Thatta, Kathur, Sohrab Goth, Nooriabad, and several other places. As time passed more and more protestors poured in and an impressive crowd gathered outside the main gate of the private housing society. The motorway adjacent to Bahria Town had to be shut down because of the sheer number of people attending the protest.
All of a sudden thick black smoke started rising from the main gate of Bahria Town, soon the fire causing the smoke could be seen touching the sky. The fire prompted the police to act, the officers present on the scene fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, which comprised a large number of women, children, and the elderly.
In the meantime, some people from the crowd entered Bahria Town and set fire to showrooms, vehicles, and other buildings. Interestingly, although the Bahria Town administration boasts about a state-of-the-art fire brigade the fire could not be brought under control, giving the sense that the Bahria Town administration and the police did not do everything in their power to control the situation in fact actually ‘lazed around’ while scores of protestors made their way to the markets inside Bahria Town
Dr. Riaz Ahmad, a civil society activist and a witness to the entire fiasco says that as soon as the violence erupted, nationalist leaders began calling out to their supporters, asking them to stay away from the fire and the violence that ensued. The organizers instantly distanced themselves from the violence even begging the police to get the situation under control but in vain.
According to Dr. Riaz, the police authorities and the Bahria Town administration purposefully allowed a handful of miscreants to enter the housing society and set fire to private property, with the intent of delegitimizing the peaceful demonstration against Bahria Town’s illegal land grab. Dr. Riaz further declared that the violence also gave the police an excuse to use disproportionate force against common citizens which led to several peaceful protestors being injured, hundreds of protestors including organizers on the stage fainted due to the dense cloud of tear gas.
Following the incident, the police nominated scores of nationalist leaders in 18 different cases which included charges of arson. All in all, 150 people have been taken into custody so far. Jiye Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) chairman Sanaan Khan Qureshi was also arrested from his home by law enforcement agencies. He was held in illegal custody for two days before being produced in a court of law.
Saeed Sarbazi, Vice President, Karachi Press Club, has demanded a transparent inquiry into the incident that there should be an investigation into the June 6 incident and action should be taken against those involved. Saeed reiterates Dr. Riaz’s point about there being a conspiracy behind the violent episode.; According to Saeed the entire episode was orchestrated to divert attention from Bahria Town’s land grab. Saeed asserts that the Bahria Town administration captured land from local goths with the direct help of the district administration.
And now the Sindh government is collaborating with the Bahria administration to lodge cases against civil society and nationalist leaders who did not even participate in violent activities.
Meanwhile urban planner Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui told Voicepk.net that massive housing projects like Bahria Town are redundant in Pakistan because there is no shortage of empty plots in the country. On the contrary, such schemes cause the price of land to shoot up forcing poor people to move to slums and other informal settlements. The government should step in and carry out planned housing projects instead of facilitating such large-scale private projects.
The siege by Bahria town has taken a massive toll on property investors who claim to have lost millions worth of investment. The investor claims that some people carried out terrorist activities under the garb of peaceful protest and set fire to private property, setting ablaze entire markets during a well-planned assault. After the siege in Bahria Town, an investor said that they also lost millions of rupees due to the siege. He said that terrorism has taken place in the name of peaceful protest and the shops here have been severely damaged. The whole market has been destroyed, and this happened under a plan. Such an act is a ploy to stop the development of Pakistan. But the investors agree with civil society organizations on one very important point, that the Bahria Town administration could have stepped in and halted the violence if they wanted to, but they did not do so.
Residents claim that the incident has created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity in the entire housing society, roads and markets have been deserted and people seemed to have locked themselves into their houses. For two days, the roads were deserted and people were trapped inside their houses. Residents assert that throughout the entire episode the Bahria Town security was nowhere to be seen.