News Desk |
As per the orders of the Supreme Court, the railway, alongside city administration authorities, has razed down over 300 concrete structures and bamboo huts from tracks of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) on first day of the grand operation to clear away land belonging to the Karachi Circular Railway.
Officials from KCR informed press that the operation of eliminating these settlements began from the Urdu College Station in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, where encroachments cleared away a 13,300 feet track.
Karachi has welcomed people from all over the country, and over the years, the demand for housing has increased but the authorities have failed to address it effectively.
Syed Mazhar Ali Shah, PR Divisional Superintendent, informed Dawn News that the agenda of clearing up encroachments and settlements on the land belonging to the KCR was ordered by the Supreme Court. PR authorities were given a deadline of two weeks to retrieve the land and eliminate encroachments alongside the tracks of KCR, and hand it over to the Sindh government.
Shah further added that the authorities had set a 15-day deadline to clear away the land and hand over the vacated land to the Sindh government to initiate the launch of the project. He stated that Pakistan Railways conducted this anti-encroachment operation alongside police and Rangers personnel, accompanied by city administrators, as ordered by the Supreme Court.
Anti-Encroachment Drive on KCR Track
The 44 kilometre-long stretch of the Karachi Circular is an arterial track that passes along various major attractions and parts of the metropolitan city. Over the past decades, people have established bamboo huts, concrete houses and shops on this stretch. The PR authorities revealed that in the earliest phase of the anti-encroachment drive, they were successful in clearing up a 7.2 kilometer stretch of the Railway track in district Central.
In the West district, they cleared up to 4.5 kilometers of the 7.5 kilometer track. On Tuesday, a meeting chaired by Commissioner Shallwani and other authorities, including the MD of Sindh Mass Transit Authority and the Divisional Superintendent of the PR, initiated the launch of a joint-operation to eliminate encroachments and vacate the land alongside the KCR track.
PR authorities were given a deadline of two weeks to retrieve the land and eliminate encroachments alongside the tracks of KCR, and hand it over to the Sindh government.
Officials revealed to Dawn News that over 29 acres of the land belonging to the KCR near Wazir Mansion is illegally occupied, this includes a two-acre stretch from Wazir Mansion to Orangi Nullah, another 1.5 acres towards Nazimabad, 2.5 acres from Nazimabad to Liaquatabad, and from there, another 3.25 acres stretching towards the Gillani Railway Station.
They further added that encroachments continue on two acres of land leading from the Gillani Railway Station to Urdu University, followed by another 4.25 acres to the University of Karachi, and another one-acre stretch leading from Depot Hill to Drigh Road Station.
Issue of Displaced People
Dawn News reports that the authorities intend to arrange an alternative residence for the displaced affected by the anti-encroachment drive, and Syed Mazhar Ali Shah specified that KCR is a project of Sindh’s provincial government, hence, alternative housing will also be their responsibility.
The 44 kilometer-long stretch of the Karachi Circular is an arterial track that passes along various major attractions and parts of the metropolitan city.
Iftikhar Shallwani, City Commissioner, informed Dawn News that Sindh’s Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, had formed a committee to undertake a KCR project, and had ordered the formation of a task force that would implement the orders of the Supreme Court to ensure that the KCR project is launched within one month.
Under these directions, the PR anti-encroachment task force, accompanied with heavy machinery, launched their operating to raze down bamboo huts and concrete establishments built alongside the KCR track early in the morning. The civilians, displaced by the encroachment drive, told media that the authorities had failed to give them substantial time to pack up their necessities and prepare for the encroachment.
They lamented that they were not given sufficient time to find shelter, and questioned how the authorities expected them to find new housing in one night. The displaced people, majority of whom were observing fasts, criticized that the authorities should have respected the month of Ramadan and initiated the anti-encroachment drive after Eid festivities were over.
Pakistan’s Poverty & Homelessness Crisis
A recent report by the World Bank, titled “State of Water Supply, Sanitation and Poverty in Pakistan” reveals that poverty has seeped through the urban and rural centers of Pakistan. The report highlights that more than 65% of Pakistan’s population lives in rural areas, and 80% of those living below the poverty line also belong to rural areas.
The report highlights that more than 65% of Pakistan’s population lives in rural areas, and 80% of those living below the poverty line also belong to rural areas.
In terms of provincial statistics, in Balochistan, 62% of the population lives below the poverty line, while the Kohistan, Muzaffargarh, Tharparkar and Qilla Abdullah have been identified as the poorest areas of the country.
In a research paper, titled, “Pakistan: the causes and repercussions of the housing crisis”, Arif Hassan and Hamza Arif explain that Karachi is one the major cities of Pakistan that has witnessed widespread migration and an influx of settlers, starting from the period before and after the partition, and following up to today.
Karachi has welcomed people from all over the country, and over the years, the demand for housing has increased but the authorities have failed to address it effectively. The paper highlights that 62% of the households in Karachi live in “informally created settlements”, ranging from bamboo huts, tents and concrete structures built on encroached lands as they fail to afford housing.
Now that the Supreme Court has ordered anti-encroachment drives across Karachi, these illegal settlements, that house millions of homeless people, have created a challenge for the authorities. The authorities and the Supreme Court must take into account that the inhabitants of these settlements, albeit illegal, must be provided with substantial time along with alternatives for affordable and sustainable housing.