KCR Action Committee protests houses demolition
KARACHI:Civil society, human rights, women’s rights and labour rights organisations under the banner of “KCR Action Committee” staged a protest demonstration from Regal Chowk to Karachi Press Club on Sunday.
A large number of affected people took part in the rally. They were carrying banners and placards and changing slogan with “Housing is a basic component of social protection”.
They maintained that the Government of Pakistan is obligated to ensure this basic right in the policy and principals of the constitution of Pakistan. However, it is important to note that no government has initiated any scheme to provide decent and dignified housing for its citizens since the government of the late Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Poor and middle classes of Pakistan has had to fend for themselves. The citizens of the country have been left at the mercy of private land developers, who sell land at exorbitant prices. Other inputs of construction are also out of the reach of common people of Pakistan.
There is a bureaucracy that is supposed to work on the regulation of land and housing but it is highly ineffective and is subversive to its mandate. Katchi Abadis and unregulated housing schemes present ample evidence of the government’s messed up mechanisms.
As a result of the government failing to provide housing for citizens, most people, who do not know about government regulations, end up getting so-called illegal access to land, electricity and water. Hence, they are vulnerable and have to face eviction from their houses which they have constructed with their hard-earned money. The recent example in this regard is forceful eviction of the affectees of Karachi Circular Railways (KCR).
The protestors in the rally maintained that they were not against the public interest project of Karachi Circular Railways. They stressed that the survey conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency-JICA in 2013 has declared more than 4,800 housing units as affectees of the KCR project. The JICA report also recommended providing alternate housing and livelihoods options to the affectees of the KCR, therefore, the concerned authorities must comply with the measures mentioned in the JICA report.
A petition has been lodged in the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan by Mr Niamaatullah Khan and Mr Jibran Nasir. Their petition prays “that this Honorable Court may be pleased to restrain Pakistan Railways and the Government of Sindh and/or their employees/persons, agents or representatives acting on their behalf, from demolishing the structures and evicting the concerned Applicant Interveners, the occupants and other affectees, in pursuit of the Karachi Circular Railway and the local train projects, till the adjudication of the Intervener Application bearing CMA No. 425- K of 2019 in CP No. 9 of 2010.
Another petition was filed by the renowned town planner and housing rights activist Mr Arif Hassan along with other members of civil society and the affectees. It’s a comprehensive petition which addresses almost all-important issues related to the demolition drive against “illegal encroachments”. The petition prays that “residents or occupants of these commercial or residential lands are being deprived of their fundamental rights to housing, to shelter, to livelihood, to dignity, to property, to due process, to being protected from discrimination and to compensation.”
Therefore, further demolition should be stopped with immediate effect until a plan for the rescue, rehabilitation and resettlement is prepared. Compensation should also be paid to affectees of the KCR demolition drive.
The petition maintains that proper planning for the eviction should be done before the eviction. Right of the residents that are guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan and in international conventions and covenants, should be protected.
A committee had earlier been formed to look into the matter mentioned above after the hearings of NCHR Sindh office, which is not currently functional. Therefore, it was demanded that the aforementioned committee should be reinvigorated with the inclusion of the affectees of all the relevant areas, concerned ministries and MPAs, MNAs, technical experts and CSO representatives. The task of the committee should be to provide immediate relief to the affectees, which includes the provision of food, temporary shelter until the permanent shelter is provided, and compensation. The committee should also streamline all the necessary measures taken for the resettlement of the affectees of the KCR and other projects.
The rally demands that public hearings, broad-based consultations and rapid surveys should be conducted to properly analyze the KCR plan and its possible impacts on the communities which will come its way.
The rally also demanded that a large number of women are affected due to this demolition drive, therefore, the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women should be designated a task to review and make recommendations for the proper rehabilitation and resettlement of women affectees of the KCR project. Furthermore, affected children are out of schools. Therefore, temporary schooling should be provided to the children to save their educational year.