Karachi activists protest KMC's 'anti-poor demolitions' in solidarity with displaced, homeless

Activists in Karachi protested against what they termed 'anti-poor demolitions' by KMC in solidarity with the displaced people

Haseem uz Zaman

KARACHI: Residents displaced by the anti-encroachment drive carried out by the city's municipal services body protested Tuesday here at the Karachi Press Club against what they and members of the civil society said were “anti-poor demolitions”.

Left homeless after the houses they have lived in for half a century were razed down by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) cranes and bulldozers, hundreds of them turned up to voice their grievances to the authorities — including the provincial government, Prime Minister Imran Khan, and the judiciary.

A protester holds a placard reading "Give home in exchange of home before Eid" at the #StopAntiPoorDemolitions protest at the Karachi Press Club in Karachi, Pakistan, May 28, 2019. Geo.tv/Stringer

The leadership had not made true on their promises to relocate them to other areas, the residents lamented, adding that the capitalistic Karachi Circular Railways (KCR) project had knocked down their homes, not allowed them to collect their belongings and valuables, and left them stranded in the scorching heat of the metropolis’ unforgiving summers.

Among the protesters were various activists, the displaced and their representatives, the KCR Mutasirin Action Committee, the KCR Joint Action Committee, members of the feminist collective Aurat Haq, the KUL team, Aurat March organisers and participants, and folks from different NGOs.

Protesters hold a banner reading "For the poor of Karachi, an Eid gift" at the #StopAntiPoorDemolitions protest at the Karachi Press Club in Karachi, Pakistan, May 28, 2019. Geo.tv/Stringer

On Sunday, the KMC had proceeded to bulldoze a big chunk of the Ghareebabad and Musa Colony areas, terming them illegal encroachments. Videos from the site showed heartbreaking scenes as many of the dwellers sobbed and tried to salvage their homes and valuables “wrecked by unplanned demolitions”.

An image posted by Karachi Urban Lab (KUL) researcher Fizza Qureshi showed “two kids lying on a charpai [charpoy] in the midst of rubble from their demolished house in Gharibabad.”

Another, shared by Aurat Haq, was of a resident sitting “on a foam mattress placed on top of rubble from her demolished home.

“All her family’s belongings are now buried under a pile of rubble because there was only enough time to collect a handful of things when the bullzoders came,” the feminist collective wrote.

In a press release, a copy of which is available with Geo.tv, the KCR Mutasirin Action Committee said: “In accordance with the Supreme Court’s orders, a plan of resettlement of those displaced by the KCR should be made with the representatives of the displaced on an urgent basis.

A resident displaced by the KMC's anti-encroachment driver speaks at the #StopAntiPoorDemolitions protest at the Karachi Press Club in Karachi, Pakistan, May 28, 2019. Geo.tv/Stringer

It mentioned that in light of the holy month of Ramzan and with Eid just around the corner, “further economic destruction of the poor and the underprivileged should be halted immediately”.

“We do not oppose the resumption of the KCR project. To resolve the traffic issues of the metropolis, the KCR project’s resumption, too, is a step in the same direction,” the statement underscored.

Women sitting infront of their demolished homes with their children along with some belongings they were able to salvage when the bulldozers came. Twitter/Fizza Qureshi (@fizza_qureshi24)/via Geo.tv

It added that the Committee demanded “the KCR be expanded to the poor and the underprivileged of areas such as Orangi Town, Baldia Town, Ittehad Town, Hawkes Bay, Surjani Town, Korangi, and Gadap Town”.

“As per a survey conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2013, some 4,653 families would be displaced.

"Therefore, the displaced should be resettled on state-owned land near their original residence where they be provided all basic necessities; till the time the displaced are not resettled, the anti-encroachment drive will assuredly be hindered,” it read.

KUL Director Dr Nausheen Anwar had tweeted on Saturday: "What kind of city will rise from the ruins? Is space for the poor and urban majority shrinking in Pakistan’s cities?"

At the protest today, a visibly upset man spoke of how his daughter’s wedding was planned right after the Eid-ul-Azha but all their plans fell through after the heavy machinery came to raze their homes to the ground.

A resident displaced by the KMC's anti-encroachment driver speaks at the #StopAntiPoorDemolitions protest at the Karachi Press Club in Karachi, Pakistan, May 28, 2019. Geo.tv/Stringer

Another, while speaking about challenges the displaced were facing at the hands of the KMC and the anti-encroachment drive, said: “You promised Naya Pakistan, you vowed to eliminate poverty. But what you’re actually doing is wiping out the poor.

“This is injustice. We, with our little children, have been kicked out of our own homes,” he said, expressing his grief and adding the ruling elite should not forget that life has its ups and downs and at the end of the day, they will be held accountable for demonizing the poor and the underprivileged.

COVER: Twitter/sana naqvi (@sanabnaqvi)/via Geo.tv