Man injured as Bahria Town Karachi guards allegedly open fire on villagers resisting eviction

Published May 7, 2021
Bahria Town Karachi officials and security personnel are seen in Kamal Khan Jokhio Goth in Malir. — Photo: Karachi Bachao Tehreek Twitter
Bahria Town Karachi officials and security personnel are seen in Kamal Khan Jokhio Goth in Malir. — Photo: Karachi Bachao Tehreek Twitter

A resident of Karachi's Gadap Town was shot at and wounded on Friday in firing allegedly carried out by private guards and policemen in civvies during Bahria Town Karachi’s (BTK) move to bulldoze several agricultural lands to pave the way for housing projects in the outskirts of the city.

While police were reluctant to share information, an activist of Sindh Indigenous Rights Alliance and resident of Kathor area, Abdul Hafeez, said the BTK guards along with police tried to destroy the crops in Kamal Khan Jokhio Goth on Friday morning but the locals put up resistance and forced them to abandon the attempt.

However, the armed private guards accompanied by police both in uniform and civilian clothes returned to the scene again after Friday prayers and started destroying the crops with bulldozers, according to Hafeez.

Around 100 residents put up resistance, and as soon as a local threw a stone towards the BTK personnel, the guards opened "straight fire" at the villagers. At least one villager, Shaukat Khaskheli, sustained a bullet injury, while another suffered minor injuries.

The guards allegedly took away the injured villager and 3-4 other locals with them, Hafeez said.

Dawn.com has made attempts to get a comment from Bahria Town Karachi and members of the PPP-led government.

Villagers were protesting against the BTK personnel and demanding that the injured person be handed over to them and a First Information Report be lodged against the BTK guards.

Hafeez later told Dawn.com that instead of taking Khaskheli to a hospital, BTK personnel took him in an injured state to the local police station to get an FIR registered against him. Locals then reached the police station, got hold of Khaskheli and shifted him to hospital.

The activist said around 50-60 acres of agricultural land was being demolished to pave the way for BTK’s new housing projects near Kathor.

In a tweet, Hafeez said the BTK officials had told the owner of the land that the land had been awarded to the real estate giant by the Supreme Court and therefore the demolition work would continue. However, they were unable to produce any documents when asked to support their claim by the owner, the activist added.

The development comes a week after PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, whose party rules Sindh, said he had taken notice of reports of villagers being evicted by employees of BTK and law enforcers in Karachi and demanded a report on the matter.

The PPP chairman had said the Supreme Court's decision was in front of everyone and neither he nor anyone else wanted to commit "contempt of court".

Hafeez said BTK officials had stopped their eviction efforts after Bilawal took notice of them, but they had resumed the same today after a gap of a week.

While responding to activist Ammar Ali Jan, who tweeted that the Sindh Police was "facilitating destruction of villages for Bahria town" despite the Sindh government giving the assurance that demolitions by BTK would stop, PPP Senator Quratulain Marri said: "I apologise. A fight has indeed erupted."

Other social media users and activists also expressed concern over today's incidents, while #SayNoToBahriaTown was trending at the top in Pakistan.

Activist Usama Khilji said on Twitter that "the poor of Karachi need state protection against land mafias."

Grand Democratic Alliance leader Ayaz Latif Palijo alleged that the BTK administration "has opened fire on the local people of Kathor and Gadap, who are resisting the land grabbing of [BTK]."

"Sindh government is in league with Malik Riaz, media has been bribed," he alleged.

Journalist Sameer Mandhro termed BTK's alleged actions reflective of a "state within state".

Rights activist Afrasiab Khattak tweeted that "it seems the land grabbers have made comprehensive arrangements, winning over law enforcers, courts and administration for conquering the huts of the poor in Karachi. But people are watching. There will be accountability in the people’s court."

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