July 3rd, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
A delegation of the Karachi Bachao Tehreek (KBT), a civil society organization highlighting the plight of the victims of the government’s brutal anti-encroachment campaign, held a press conference at the Karachi press club on Friday to highlight the glaring gaps in the Sindh government’s proposed relief package.
No mention of affectees in relief commission
One of the key demands of the commission was the representation of those affected in the commission, which was proposed by Pakistan People’s Party stalwart Murtaza Wahab, tasked with assessing the situation and providing relief to the victims.
“It is a positive development that the government has finally decided to pay attention to the plight of the victims of this unbalanced anti-encroachment drive, but it is equally strange that the authorities have decided not to include even a single affectee or their representative in this commission,” said Khurram Ali, convener of KBT. “This is a classic case of a government looking at the governed as subjects and not citizens. How can you expect to provide relief to the victims if you do not even bother listening to them? Even though the government has not contacted us to inform us about the developments in this regard we have found out that the commission will primarily comprise of people from the provincial government and the bureaucracy. It may also include representatives of the Karachi Metropolitan Authority, the Karachi Development Authority, and the Sindh Kachi Abadi Authority. And I can bet that in time the commission will expand to include representatives of big builders as well. So, basically, all the people who created the problem in the first place will be tasked with resolving it, which is laughable,” continues Khurram in an exclusive conversation Voicepk.net.
Where will the affectees be relocated?
Around three days ago, after increased pressure from local and international rights organization PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto allied himself with the displaced citizens and the provincial government categorically stated that every person who’ll be displaced will get an 80sq feet plot of land. “If we take away 80sq feet from someone we will give them 80sq feet in return,” the government declared categorically.
But the affectees are not satisfied.
According to civil society activists who have been in touch with the affectees, international standards dictate that people must be relocated in the vicinity of the land from which they have been displaced.
So, for example, if someone is being displaced from the Karachi center they should be relocated to an area in the Karachi center, similarly, if someone is being displaced from Karachi west they should be relocated to Karachi west. Instead, the Sindh government’s proposed relocation plan will see these people relocated to territories on the peripheries of Karachi.
Similarly, the Sindh government has kept the compensation amount deliberately vague which is justifiably causing confusion for the residents.
Widening of roads not part of the master plan
“The Sindh government has been continuously hiding behind the Supreme Court judgment (ordering them to clear the way for the Karachi master plan) whenever they’ve faced criticism on this issue. But it is worth noting that the Karachi Metropolitan Cooperation (KMC) is clearing the way for 30-foot-wide roads on either side of the Orangi and Gujjar nullas. These roads were included in the master plan and are hence not covered by the umbrella of the Supreme Court judgment,” explains Khurram of the KBT.
It is also worth mentioning that the road being constructed by the Mehmoodabad drain in Saeed Ghani’s constituency is only 12 feet wide. “If the roads around the Gujjar and Orangi Nullas had been kept to around 10 feet instead of 30 we would not have had to face this crisis in the first place and the relocation of these people could have been possible in the vicinity of their own houses. 90% of the total people being affected would have avoided being dragged into this crisis if the master plan had been followed but no attention was paid to this aspect,” continues Khurram.
KMC playing a dubious role
Many people believe that the Karachi Metropolitan Cooperation (KMC) has played a very negative role during the crisis. Many of its employees were allegedly involved in taking bribes to issue false documentation based on which people started residing on these lands. “People living on these lands have no objection certificates (NOCs) and other legal documents including leases giving them the right to settle these lands, issued by different departments of the district administration including the KMC but when the matter reached the courts these KMC employees declared these leases to be illegal, leaving the residents hanging,” explains members of the Karachi Bachao Tehreek.
Victims of the anti-encroachment drive have also alleged harassment at the hands of KMC employees and have claimed that the officials are demanding bribes in return for registering residents for compensation. Putting the entire proposed relief program in jeopardy.