KARACHI: The Sindh Action Committee (SAC) addressed a jam-packed press conference here at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday to share with the media their stand on Bahria Town Karachi (BTK) and the happenings on June 6 when they held a peaceful protest on M-9 Motorway, which was made to look like something else.
Narrating the incidents of that day, Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah said that they were all there by 12 noon, but between 2pm and 2.30pm, there were many other people who were strangers to us, and who were allowed to enter Bahria Town and cause destruction.
“We kept disowning them. We kept pointing them out while saying that they were not from among us. We were peaceful protesters. We would never hurt anyone or damage anyone’s property and we condemn what happened,” he said.
“We also know who the culprits were. They were not just from Bahria Town itself, they were also people sent by the Sindh government to make us look bad and to make our peaceful protest a failure, to make it backfire. And for this and for not being able to prevent and control the violence, the Sindh government needs to apologise,” he said.
‘To be built on 16,800 acres, Bahria Town has now spread to 50,000 acres’
He also pointed out that Bahria Town was supposed to be built on 16,800 acres of land. “But then because there was no demarcation carried out for this land, it has now spread to 50,000 acres.”
Qadir Magsi said that they could not openly accept the illegal taking over of their land. “This is the land of Sindhis, which is being used in experiments of modernising Sindh. How will they feel if we went to Bilawal House and change its furniture, etc, in the name of modernisation, improvement and development? We are not anti-progress. We are not against modernisation. But if you want to develop Sindh, you do it with the approval of the true owners of Sindh, the indigenous people of Sindh,” he said.
“The government wants to take over our land and sell it to the rich. Is Sindh a new Palestine now? And are the indigenous of Sindh new Palestinians? What is Sindh? Do you see it as an orphanage where people come from outside and get themselves registered as voters while the indigenous people are pushed aside and forgotten?” he said.
Coming to June 6 and the protest called by them, Dr Magsi said that their intention was to only hold a peaceful sit-in on the service road outside Bahria Town. “But with the service road closed with barbed wire and containers, we all found ourselves on M-9 facing teargas and rubber bullets, which also injured women and children, who had come to join us in our protest. They had come despite hurdles such as being yelled at and stopped for not wearing masks and the taking out air from the tyres of their vehicles by police. Still, we told them to hold their sit-in wherever they have been stopped in their tracks,” he said.
“We question the law enforcement agencies that stopped these peaceful protesters but were missing from the scene when the real trouble started. Why didn’t they stop the mob? We kept saying that the troublemakers were not our people, but they are still making arrests from Karachi to Kashmore of people who are a part of the Sindh Action Committee. We are still saying arrest those who were really involved in vandalism that day instead of targeting peaceful writers, artists and activists who feel for Sindh. There are around 30 FIRs registered against these educated people,” he said.
Riaz Chandio said that the SAC saluted all those who joined in with them for the peaceful protest and sit-in. “Sadly, they are also facing the brunt of the police excesses now. There is plenty of video footage from that day, which is being erased now. The chief minister of Sindh is also involved in hiding evidence. He is also pointing fingers at us because he is also part of the establishment that has its eye on Sindh’s land and Sindh’s resources. It’s all a big conspiracy against the demography of Sindh,” he said.
Advocate Sajjad Ahmed Chandio said that Bahria Town and its unchecked growth had already been called ‘illegal’ by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. “There is no other example of disobeying court orders anywhere in the world like it has happened here in Pakistan. The Supreme Court’s decision should be implemented. The court has said that all construction outside the actual area of Bahria Town is illegal but the people of old goths there are still forcibly being removed from their ancestral lands in the middle of the night as the mighty Malik Riaz grabs more land,” he said.
“We have not even witnessed such injustice even in dictatorships of Yahya Khan, Ayub Khan and Ziaul Haq. The spirit of dictatorship has entered the Pakistan Peoples Party now.”
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2021