KARACHI: Scores of people staged a protest demonstration outside the Clifton headquarters of real estate giant Bahria Town against the ongoing development work on thousands of acres of land along the Superhighway that reportedly affected at least 50 villages.
Writer and campaigner for the rights of indigenous communities Gul Hassan Kalmati led the protest that began adjacent to the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi.
Speaking to Dawn, he said that the Supreme Court in its 2011 decision had put a stop to land allotment in Karachi.
“As we speak, residents of Kathore, Gadap Town are protesting for their right to stay where they want to. Fifty villages have been affected so far. Out of those, three have been demolished to pave the way for the sprawling gated community off the Superhighway,” he added.
He also alleged that in order to include more land for the Bahria Town project “illegal occupation continues unabated”.
Around 15 days back, residents of Kathore protested against the constant harassment by police and the ‘developers’.
Senior vice president of the Awami Workers Party (AWP) Yusuf Mastikhan explained: “The residents are still protesting the illegal takeover of their land which destroyed their agriculture. These protests will continue until the developer agrees to construct only on the legally allotted land.”
It was initially the protests by residents of Kathore that kept a heavy contingent of police with bulldozers to pull out of the area without razing any plot.
But Mr Kalmati said: “They [the developers] can come up with a new tactic to go against the court orders and try to harass the residents. So, it is important that we continue to raise our voices against the illegal destruction and occupation of land.”
Among the protesters gathered near the Abdullah Shah Ghazi intersection were academics, labour rights workers and students.
Initially congregating at the intersection, the protesters moved towards the Bahria Town headquarters while chanting slogans. Children begging along the road also joined them repeating with the protesters as they all then stood outside the skyscraper.
Academic Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan said: “Protests need to continue since the decision and order of the Supreme Court and the Sindh High Court is not being valued at all.”
AWP member Mamnoon Choudhry said: “We do need to raise our voices against this growing trend of bypassing the court orders. Land authorities and Bahria Town are colluding together to illegally displace people from their rightfully owned lands.”
Speaking about the disadvantages of the Bahria Town Complex, Mr Kalmati said there would be a “displacement like never before due to this construction mainly from the 45 goths that surround it or are within its territory. Internal migration, frustration and violence are going to be the result of it which the authorities are unable to foresee”.
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2017