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Over 300 huts, structures removed as ‘grand’ operation to clear KCR land begins

Updated May 16, 2019

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POLICE personnel patrol an area being cleared of encroachments in Gulshan-i-Iqbal’s Block 13 on Wednesday while (right) a family stands where their abode once stood.
—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
POLICE personnel patrol an area being cleared of encroachments in Gulshan-i-Iqbal’s Block 13 on Wednesday while (right) a family stands where their abode once stood. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: More than 300 bamboo huts and concrete structures on the track of the Karachi Circular Railway were removed on Wednesday by Pakistan Railways staff with the support of the city administration on the first day of the ‘grand’ operation to clear the KCR land.

Railway officials said that the operation was launched at the Urdu College station in Gulshan-i-Iqbal, where a portion of the track stretching over 13,300 feet was cleared of encroachments.

PR’s divisional superintendent, Karachi, Syed Mazhar Ali Shah, told Dawn that efforts to clear the KCR land had been geared up as the Supreme Court had last week given two weeks to the PR authorities to retrieve the land along the tracks of the KCR and hand it over to the Sindh government.

Affected people ask how they can find shelters overnight

He said that the priority was to clear the right of way of the KCR within 15 days and afterwards the vacated land would be handed over to the Sindh government for launching the project.

Mr Shah said that the anti-encroachment operation was being conducted by the Pakistan Railways with the assistance and support of the city administration, police and Rangers in the light of the SC’s order.

Rehabilitation issue

As for the rehabilitation of the displaced people, he said the KCR was a project of the provincial government which would arrange alternative place for the “project affected people”.

City Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani told Dawn that Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had constituted a committee for the KCR project and a task force was being formed to implement the apex court’s direction for launching the KCR project within a month.

Meanwhile, PR anti-encroachment staff, equipped with heavy machinery, started their operation in the morning, demolishing huts and concrete structures on the KCR track.

Talking to Dawn, displaced people said that the authorities had asked them on Tuesday night to remove their belongings from their huts. They said that they should have been given time to move from the place, asking how they could find shelter overnight.

The affected people, most of whom were fasting, said that the authorities should have launched the operation after Eid.

POLICE personnel patrol an area being cleared of encroachments in Gulshan-i-Iqbal’s Block 13 on Wednesday while (right) a family stands where their abode once stood.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
POLICE personnel patrol an area being cleared of encroachments in Gulshan-i-Iqbal’s Block 13 on Wednesday while (right) a family stands where their abode once stood.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

The PR officials said that they had in the previous phase of the drive against encroachments cleared 7.2 kilometres of the railway track in district Central.

In district West, they said that 4.5km, out of 7.5km, had been cleared of all encroachments.

The 44km KCR track passes through different parts of the city where people have built shops, houses and other structures over the past many years.

The decision to launch a joint operation against encroachments on the KCR track was taken on Tuesday in a meeting chaired by Commissioner Shallwani and attended among others by the divisional superintendent of the PR and managing director of the Sindh Mass Transit Authority.

According to officials, more than 29 acres of KCR land is occupied near Wazir Mansion; two acres from Wazir Mansion to Orangi Nullah; 1.5 acres from there to Nazimabad; 2.5 acres from there to Liaquatabad; and 3.25 acres from there to the Gilani railway station.

Two acres of the KCR land is illegally occupied from the Gilani railway station up to Urdu University; 4.25 acres till the University of Karachi; and one acre to Depot Hill near the Drigh Road station.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2019