KARACHI: Members of civil society and development activists on Wednesday called upon the Sindh government to protect the interests of the common people in the uplift projects being initiated in various parts of the province.

A consultation meeting was held by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), the Urban Resource Centre and The Knowledge Forum (TKF) to discuss the ‘Sindh Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2022’ at the NCHR office.

The meeting was chaired by NCHR member (Sindh) Anis Haroon and attended by urban planner and architect Arif Hasan, Amber Alibhai of Shehri-CBE, Zahid Farooq of Urban Resource Centre, Mohammed Toheed of Karachi Urban Labs, senior trade unionist Habibuddin Junaidi, TKF director Zeenia Shaukat, Uzma Noorani of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, rights activist Zulfiqar Shah, environment activist Yasir Husain and others.

Speaking on the occasion, Arif Hasan said that the Sindh Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2022 did not solve the overall problems of the local people.

He said that for formulating a policy, a detailed background paper was developed first. Before the finalisation of any policy, a detailed discussion needed to be held at district levels, he said.

“In my view, this policy is made only for World Bank projects,” he remarked.

The biggest problem in all government policies is the non-availability of institutional arrangements. Civil society has to struggle for institutional arrangements.

Mr Toheed said that in December, the Sindh government had invited some civil society organisations on very short notice. “But we realised that the government was not taking civil society into confidence,” he said.

Ms Alibhai said that her organisation had asked the government to hold consultation meetings in other parts of Sindh. According to her, any government policy should only be for public sector projects and not for private sector projects. She asked civil society and rights organisations to submit valuable recommendations on this policy.

In Karachi, thousands of families were displaced due to the Karachi Circular Railway and other development projects. Now, over three years have passed after the Supreme Court decided to provide alternative places to live to the affected families, she mentioned.

Advocate Leela Ram said that in Tharparkar a resettlement policy was made for the affected people of the coal-fired power plants.

Mr Junaidi said that the nation had been experiencing bad governance for decades. “We have not learnt from history,” he said.

Zulfiqar Shah said that the Sindh government released the policy on January 30 and published an advertisement in the newspapers. The government had invited civil society’s views. Our friends in Hyderabad also held consultation on this. He called upon civil society to work together.

He also said that relevant departments should send the recommendations in person and public it, next week.

He also proposed to release the recommendations on social media. “A parliamentary committee led by Rehana Leghari is also working on this issue so civil society should focus on meeting the parliamentary committee,” he added.

Published in Dawn, February 23th, 2023

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