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KARACHI: The growing criticism by friends-turned-foes as well as rival parties against the Karachi mayor-led anti-encroachment drive has put the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) in a tight spot as the party clarified on Friday that the mayor had not razed a single house in Karachi and the apex court had only given him mandate to clear parks, footpaths and nullahs of encroachments.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and even disgruntled MQM-P leader Dr Farooq Sattar have been criticising Mayor Wasim Akhtar-led anti-encroachment operation being conducted by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation in which hundreds of shops had been demolished.

On Friday, Dr Sattar announced that the organisation restoration committee (ORC) of the MQM-P, better known as the PIB group, will hold a demonstration outside the KMC head office on Saturday (today) in protest against the ongoing anti-encroachment drive that had snatched the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of traders and other people.

Khalid Maqbool says Karachi mayor will resign if houses demolished; disgruntled Sattar to hold protest today

Also, PSP chairman Mustafa Kamal during a visit to the Khori Garden area, where he met the traders whose shops had been razed in the ongoing operation, questioned as to why leased shops were demolished without making any alternative arrangement.

‘Mayor to resign if houses demolished’

In view of the increasing criticism, the top brass of the MQM-P held a press conference at its temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad in what appeared to be an attempt to defend its beleaguered mayor who is also a deputy convener of its coordination committee.

“The Karachi mayor has not demolished even one house in the name of drive against encroachments ... he has already said that he will resign from the office if houses are demolished,” said MQM-P convener and federal minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui.

Accompanied by Mayor Akhtar, senior leader Amir Khan, Kanwar Naveed Jameel, Faisal Subzwari, Aminul Haq and others, Dr Siddiqui said that the Supreme Court had given mandate to the mayor for the removal of encroachments and he had fulfilled all his responsibilities.

He said that certain organisations, which did not fall within the administrative control of the Karachi mayor, were also carrying out operations to remove encroachments.

He appealed to Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar to give control of the Karachi Building Control Authority, Karachi Development Authority, Karachi water and Sewerage Board, the master plan department and others to the mayor.

1,470 traders to get alternative shops in first phase

Speaking on the occasion, Mayor Akhtar said that some “political jugglers” were trying to mislead the masses as the KMC did not take action against even one small hut in the city.

He said that the apex court gave him mandate to clear encroachments from roads, footpaths, parks, etc.

He said that a total of 3,575 shops had been affected in the anti-encroachment drive and in the first phase “we are providing alternative shops to 1,470 traders”.

The mayor said that he had requested the Supreme Court and the Sindh government not to punish those living in residential areas and they should be allowed to get their settlements regularised.

He said he had no powers to demolish houses as it was the job of the Sindh Building Control Authority.

PIB faction to hold protest demo today

Earlier in the day, disgruntled Dr Farooq Sattar announced a protest demonstration outside KMC head office on Saturday (today) and said that a large number of MQM-P workers along with affected traders would attend it.

Speaking at a press conference, he said that the anti-encroachment drive had left over 500,000 people unemployed and directly affected 50,000 households.

He said the Supreme Court had ordered removal of encroachments in the city, but the KMC and Sindh government had taken action against over 5,000 shops which had been regularly paying their rent and had agreement valid till 2027.

Accusing Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani and Mayor Akhtar of misusing apex court’s order, Dr Sattar demanded that all affected traders be resettled forthwith.

He said that the CM, governor and mayor should tell people of Karachi as to who got benefit by their actions in the city. He warned that this anti-encroachment operation might cause riots in the city. “Why this city is being pushed towards unrest and chaos?” he asked.

Talking about his rivals in the MQM-P, he said that he was saddened to see the behaviour of the Bahadurabad group, particularly Amir Khan and Kanwar Naveed, towards him.

He reminded the Bahadurabad group that people were not being evicted from their houses or businesses during the time of party founder Altaf Hussain.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018