Police foil protest outside Bilawal House against demolition of houses

Published June 22, 2021
Protesters confront policemen outside Bilawal House on Monday.—PPI
Protesters confront policemen outside Bilawal House on Monday.—PPI

KARACHI: The affectees and civil society organisations held a protest demonstration outside Bilawal House here on Monday against the demolition of homes situated along Gujjar and Orangi nullahs in the name of an anti-encroachment operation.

However, their efforts were foiled by the police who allegedly created hindrances on various roads, commandeered two buses and detained several persons, including women and children, organisers of the protest said.

The police denied any detention or torture.

The incident prompted the Sindh chief minister to form a committee to hold an inquiry into the situation, said a spokesperson.

Murad forms committee to hold inquiry into alleged torture of protesters

Despite the hurdles, many of the protesters, mostly young men and women, reached near Bilawal House, where the police stopped them, snatched banners from them and detained more than 20 persons, said Khurram, convener of the Karachi Bachao Tehreek. The KBT comprises several groups/parties besides the affected.

Subsequently, they held a protest outside the Karachi Press Club.

Talking to Dawn, Khurram said that since morning the police had adopted an aggressive attitude. They allegedly conducted a raid on their office in Kausar Niazi Colony and took away banners and pamphlets. The raid was aimed at arresting Abid Asghar, president of the KBT, who was not present there.

The police remained there and tried to prevent the people from going to Bilawal House. He claimed that two buses carrying woman, children and men were hijacked by the police near Boat Basin and the South City Hospital while around 20 to 25 protesters were detained near Bilawal House. They were shifted to different police stations. However, some of them were later released and joined the protest at the KPC.

“Our main demand is that if the Orangi Town and Gujjar nullahs were restored on the pattern of Mehmoodabad Nullah, 90 per cent of the homes could be saved from demolition,” said Khurram, who is also a leader of the Awami Workers Party. He referred to the right of way developed over Mehmoodabad Nullah, which was built over 15 feet while the same structures over the Orangi and Gujjar nullahs are proposed to be built over 30 feet.

He added that their second demand pertained to the payment of compensation and provision of alternative accommodation to those whose houses had been demolished. He said that the Supreme Court had also ordered the provision of alternative residences to the affected.

Police deny arrests

South SSP Zubair Nazeer Shaikh told Dawn that the police did not detain or arrest any person. He also denied any action taken against the protesters. He said the protesters had blocked the road. The police advised them to go to the “regular venue of protests”, the Karachi Press Club, and that protests were banned in ‘red zone’ also. Subsequently, the protesters left for the KPC.

Another police officer, who wished not to be named, said that around 30 protesters, including four women, were detained. They were brought to the police station concerned and were released later.

CM forms committee

Sindh government spokesperson Barrister Murtaza Wahab said Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had taken notice of the protest and alleged torture of protesters by the police outside Bilawal House.

“The Sindh government respects freedom of expression,” said the adviser.

He said the chief minister had established a high-level committee about the protest and alleged torture. The body would hold an inquiry into the situation.

“The PPP respects the people’s right to protest,” he said. But he suggested that the people should also not cause inconvenience to others while holding protests.

He said he talked to the South SSP, who said that no one was arrested. The SSP also informed him that the police did not resort to torture but had asked the protesters not to block traffic.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2021

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