July 10, 2023
By Shaukat Korai
Karachi Bachao Tehreek on Sunday organized a protest rally against forced evictions and destruction of homes in anti-encroachment drives.
Hundreds of citizens, including affectees and civil society activists, participated in the Ghar Bahali rally which began from the Arts Council and reached the Karachi Press Club.
A large number of women belonging to families whose houses around Gujjar and Orangi nullahs and in Mujahid Colony were demolished to restore the Karachi Circular Railway also participated in the demonstration.
Participants stated that their homes were destroyed by the government in “Operation Clean Up”, an anti-encroachment drive and the construction of 10-feet-wide roads on either side of Gujjar and Orangi nullahs. At least 600 houses were reportedly flattened in Mujahid Colony.
On September 22, 2021, the Supreme Court issued directives to the Sindh Government to resettle displaced affectees of Gujjar and Orangi nullah within a year, however the protesters say that these orders are yet to be implemented.
“We had five homes between my sisters and two brothers,”
another affectee said. “The government promised they would give us a house in exchange for a house. We have received nothing till date. Only God knows how we are trying to survive in this situation.”
Organizers of the Karachi Bachao Tehreek said that the affected families invested their life savings into the homes which were ultimately demolished by the Sindh Government.
“They forced us out of our homes and brought us to the footpath. Give us a home for our home, give us our cheques” one protesters cried out. “We were supposed to receive cheques worth six months of rent. How do we pay our rent? With only one breadwinner in the family, what do we do? Everything is so expensive, even food has become a luxury.”
Demonstrators also stated that the Sindh Government had promised financial support to affectees to pay rent during the time it would take the authorities to arrange for suitable housing, however these payments were eventually stopped, leaving many homeless for the past two years.
“The children suffer the most, we cannot even feed them properly. Everything is so expensive now, one sack of flour costs Rs. 1,500,” another lamented. “How do we feed our children? How do we send them to school? How do we pay rent? Sometimes I feel like killing myself and my children. If only suicide was not haram…”
Those who did receive compensatory cheques could not cash them due to insufficient funds in the account.
Karachi Bachao Tehreek organizers reiterated that living spaces should be provided to all affectees immediately while families who have yet to receive any money for rent should be compensated in order to escape homelessness.