ISLAMABAD: A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) set up by the Supreme Court to probe into the murder of Perween Rehman, director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), Karachi, has said that the city’s “land mafia” is the clearest beneficiary of her killing.

In its final report presented before a three-judge Supreme Court bench hea­ded by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, the JIT said after Ms Rehman’s murder, the OPP’s work of documenting Goths and developing them to attain their land rights stopped almost immediately.

The case will again be heard by the court on May 21.

Earlier in its interim report, the JIT had suggested that the linking of Qari Bilal, believed to be a senior commander of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan who was killed in an alleged police encounter on March 14, 2013 — a day after her murder — as being the prime suspect behind the murder was in all probability false.

Ms Rehman was killed while she was on her way home from her office by assailants on the main Manghopir Road near the Banaras flyover on March 13, 2013.

Advocate Raheel Kamran Sheikh is representing Aquila Ismail, the sister of the slain Ms Rehman, before the apex court.

Possibility of TTP’s or water hydrant mafia’s involvement in the killing also examined

The JIT explained three possible theories behind the motive, the work of TTP or the jihadi elements against the vision of Ms Rehman.

The second possibility may be the illegal water and hydrant mafia in the city and lastly the organised crime groups involved in land-grabbing because she was striving to help residents of Goth Abad Schemes to secure their land rights.

The OPP was helping communities living on the outskirts of Karachi to attain their legal land rights, the report said, adding that Ms Rehman was an ardent compiler of the record of lands, which were on the fringes of the city in the shape of villages or Goths.

However, a lot of these Goths are disappearing because they were not recognised as legitimate communities by the government and thus land developers, who wanted to meet the ever-increasing demand for land in the city, would gobble up these villages and forcibly remove these communities.

It was obviously much easier for an ambitious land developer to displace communities that had no legal recognition as they could either be forcibly threatened off their lands or paid a pittance to relocate. Whereas if a Goth is recognised, the cost to the developer of any project would inclemently increase, the report said.

Ms Rehman, the JIT stated, had initiated the process of identifying such Goths, surveying them and helping the residents to compile their documentation. Till 2012, for instance the Board of Revenue, Sindh, was recognising only 204 Goths in Karachi whereas OPP had identified more than 1,100 Goths.

This process picked up pace after the Pakistan Peoples Party government announced its Goth Abad Scheme and Ms Rehman’s connections with some PPP members facilitated it.

The recognition of such a large number of Goths and by implication dwellers’ rights over significant and lucrative areas of land on the northern and eastern outskirts of Karachi represented a clear and present danger to the land mafia of the city, the JIT feared.

OPP’s estimates suggested that the number of Goths was likely to double and even treble from the 1,182 that had been identified by 2012.

The JIT recalled how the OPP members started receiving threats and in at least one incident, a cracker or grenade was thrown at a senior member of OPP staff.

The result was that OPP suspended its working with the Goths and those operations have not been reopened till date.

With the suspension of OPP’s work, the entire process of regularising and recognising the Goths that Ms Rehman initiated, came to a standstill and the dwellers of the Goths were left once again at the mercy of the land grabbers.

Thus, it was the land mafia elements that became the direct beneficiaries of the murder of Ms Rehman, the report contended.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2018