KARACHI, Aug 30: Over 50,000 acres of government land around the metropolis has been encroached upon, converted into plots and sold by the land mafia over the past few years, said civil society activist and former chief secretary Tasneem Siddiqui on Friday.

Speaking at a stakeholders’ consultation on “People and the land: Empowering communities for social justice – Rural Karachi”, a case study organised by Shehri and funded by World Bank and Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, he said that for the past many years the government had not been providing any land to the people and hence the informal sector comprising land grabbers and land mafia was providing land illegally to the people.

Mr Siddiqui said that three major political parties were involved in land grabbing around the city.

Citing an example, he said in North Nazimabad several parks had been encroached upon and houses were constructed over them within a week and due to lack of action against the encroachers it confirmed the fact that the land grabbers had political backing.

Referring to Napier Barracks and cantonment boards, he said that vast tracks of land were still available in the city that could be utilised to house the people. He said that barracks and cantonment boards had no work in the cities and these could be moved out away from the urban centres.

A senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader, Taj Haider, said that for over a decade the rural areas around the city, which were earlier catered for by the Karachi District Council (KDC), were totally neglected by the city’s civic agencies so much so that even salaries, which could not be held back, were not paid to primary school teachers for several years.

He said that under the recently formulated local government law the KDC had been revived and development funds were going to be distributed, according to a formula set by the Provincial Finance Commission, under which funds would be provided to the local councils directly so that they were able to carry out developmental work in their respective areas.

Mr Haider said that rural areas remained neglected though until recently funds had been given to the city district government, which was also responsible for rural areas. Now under the new law, rural areas would get their due share in development, he added.

He said that the government was also planning to develop the livestock sector to get dairy products and to acquire electricity through biogas plants. He said that there was great potential to generate wind power through the Jhimpir corridor, but unfortunately electricity was being supplied to the national grid instead of being distributed to the surrounding villages and the nearby Nooriabad industrial area.

Earlier, Farhan Anwar of Shehri sharing findings of his study carried out in three villages — Ramzan Goth, Arib Rind Goth and Long Goth — in Gadap said that civic amenities such as health, education, roads, sewerage system, clean drinking water, regular supply of electricity, were non-existent in these areas. He said that even though these Goths (villages) were located on the fringe of the city it seemed that they existed in a different world other than Karachi. He said the residents also lacked social and political empowerment and were largely dependent on local influential people.

Abdul Ghani, who had come from Ramzan Goth, said that his village was set up in 1895 yet it had not been leased with the result that the village had no civic amenities. Another villager, Nawaz Brohi, from Manzoor Goth said that his village too was around 200 years old but it had not been regularised.

Dr Noman Ahmed of the NED University, Amber Alibhoy and Khan Mohammad Mahar of Shehri, Zahid Farooq of Urban Resource Centre, and others also spoke at the function where the 112-page study report was launched.

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