AFTER a Supreme Court order, the Lahore Development Authority launched a crackdown on land encroachment in Johar Town, recovering illegally possessed land, including 80 kanals worth Rs5bn ‘belonging’ to alleged land grabber Mansha Bomb.

Ostentatiously, saplings were then planted on the cleared land. The chief justice also ordered police to arrest Mansha who is wanted in over 80 cases and is said to have enjoyed political patronage and police protection for decades.

Mansha, who has gone into hiding, owns more than 12 residences, besides several commercial markets in Lahore.

Anti-encroachment operations are under way in Faisalabad, Multan, Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib and Kasur.

Amidst all the hue and cry — with the authorities boasting about their success and social commentators wondering about the man with the strange name — the residents and shopkeepers who had been renting out properties in Johar Town have been noticeably missing from the conversation.

Reported to be seen grabbing their valuables in a state of panic when the bulldozers arrived, they later complained that they were not informed of the drive; and were unable to make arrangements in preparation for their evictions. In other parts of the city, residents protested, resulting in the arrest of one person by police on rioting charges. As of now, the future of around 100 to 150 families remains uncertain, as no compensation or safety nets have been announced as yet.

In Karachi, the much-hyped 16.5km-long Lyari Expressway, which has been under construction for 16 years, has affected the lives of at least 200,000 people. Resettlement packages were announced, giving residents new plots in far-off areas in the city along with financial packages. But conflicts and disputes in allotments were reported, and some are still struggling to receive the compensation they were promised.

While the anti-encroachment drive is certainly a positive step taken by the government, the lack of thought and care is not. It is necessary to ensure legality, but it is equally necessary to be humane towards vulnerable groups.

Published in Dawn, October 4th , 2018

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