Human chain formed to protest against ‘illegal’ evictions along nullahs in Karachi

Published May 2, 2021
“We have spent our childhood and youth in these houses,” said Abid Asghar, a leader of the Gujjar Nala affectees. — White Star/File
“We have spent our childhood and youth in these houses,” said Abid Asghar, a leader of the Gujjar Nala affectees. — White Star/File

KARACHI: A human chain was formed alongside the Gujjar Nala, from Liaquatabad Daak Khana to the Khamosh Colony graveyard under the banner of the Awami Workers Party, Women Democratic Front and Progressive Students Federation on Saturday.

The demonstration was organised by the victims of illegal evictions in the Gujjar Nala and Orangi Nala areas, as well as the K-Electric Labour Union, SSGC Insaf Jafakash Union, and Progressive Trade Union Federation.

A large number of Karachi citizens, including women and children, participated in the protest and chanted slogans against the federal and provincial governments.

“We have spent our childhood and youth in these houses,” said Abid Asghar, a leader of the Gujjar Nala affectees. “For you, these buildings are stone and mortar, but for us they are our life. Building these houses has been a lifelong endeavor for our elders, and it is impossible for people from our socio-economic class to build a house in this city ever again. Our only demand is that this operation be halted until we are given alternative housing in the same district, as per the order of the Supreme Court.”

‘This operation be halted until we are given alternative housing in the same district’

Addressing the participants, Khurram Ali, general secretary of Awami Workers Party, Karachi, said that the current situation in Karachi Central and Orangi Town mirrored that of Kashmir and Palestine. He noted that citizens with legitimate claims to their housing were being evicted with the help of police and Rangers.

He added that those raising questions were being harassed and arrested, while the builder mafia -- the actual illegal occupiers -- were being given state protection. He named Rao Anwar as an example of police officers responsible for giving land to this mafia all over Karachi, including in Malir and Gadap, where forcible evictions were also taking place.

Speaking on the occasion, Zuhabia, organiser of the Progressive Students Federation Karachi, said that such inhumane, undemocratic and illegal demolitions had a profound effect on the youth, affecting not only their education, but also causing an adverse impact on their entire lives.

Noreen Fatima, leader of Women’s Democratic Front, said that in this patriarchal society, women had a deep connection to their homes and they suffered severe mental and physical distress from such demolitions. She highlighted the example of a woman who had recently died of a heart attack after her house was marked for demolition. She made clear that the manner in which this operation was being carried out could not be called anything other than state terrorism.

Anwar Khan, the leader of Orangi Nala victims, said that in Karachi, most of the buildings and colonies were built on stolen land, even the Awami Markaz itself. And like the elite residency of Bani Gala in Islamabad, these buildings and colonies were deemed legal. On the contrary, he noted, the legitimate houses of the working-class people were being declared illegal and demolished.

“Currently, a big mafia is operating in the guise of a government that wants to evict us from our legitimate property and sell these lands to the builder mafia, and simultaneously wants to consume the money received for alternative housing from the World Bank,” said Shams, a leader of the Cafe Pyala victims. “I appeal to the authorities, friends in the media and especially the chief justice of the Supreme Court to take notice of this illegal operation, which is being carried out by misinterpreting your decision.”

Finally, Arif Shah, a leader of Awami Workers Party-Karachi and Gujjar Nala Victims Committee, thanked the participants and said that the Awami Workers Party with its sister organisations was fighting for democracy by protesting and taking legal action against excesses in the World Bank project. “Our struggle will continue until we get our rights,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021

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