Karachi: The problem of illegal encroachments in Karachi has become a nightmare for the civic agencies, as removal of more than 2million roadside stalls and vending carts, called Patharas in local language, is next to impossible for Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and other related agencies, already marred with corruption, political interference and inefficiency
All Karachi Tajir Ittehad (AKTI) President Atiq Mir said due to dillydally attitude of civic agencies and ever-growing tendencies of extortion in political players the illegal encroachments have become a lucrative business in Karachi, in which many powerful mafias are involved. He said there are more than 2million Patharas in Karachi, each paying Rs200 to Rs1000 extortion (Bhatta) daily. He said this is a multi-billion scam in which not only black sheep of KMC, anti-encroachment and police departments are involved but many powerful political players also receive a major share from this Bhatta collection. He is this is why that each and every drive against these encroachments has failed in the city. He said it is a simple truth that these encroachments give extra money to corrupt elements in KMC, police and anti-encroachment departments and they are not so foolish to kill their golden egg laying goose.
Atiq Mir, quoting example of Robinson Road near Eidgah Market Karachi, said even whole streets are closed for public transport buses just to give more space to Patharas. He said no one dares to challenge the encroachment mafia because it is too powerful. He said even police and KMC people dare not to harm the vested interests of this encroachment mafia. He said Karachi can never be purged from illegal encroachments till the political parties renounce their covert support to encroachers.
He said traders and shopkeepers suffer a lot due to encroachments as their market areas witness frequent traffic jams and buyers especially womenfolk avoid visiting these dangerously crowded streets. He said in some cases the shopkeepers themselves create encroachments by displaying their wares on footpaths and streets. He said in Karachi this misuse of roads and streets is so high that even car showroom owners also display their cars on roads and footpaths blocking the flow of traffic. In this regard he quoted the examples of Tariq Road, Khalid Bin Waleed Road and New M A Jinnah Road.
Mir said the government should have feel the seriousness of this issue now, as more delay would only complicate the matter, as the business of encroachments is swelling with the passage of time. He suggested that in the first place all encroachments that block the flow of traffic must be removed at all costs and no leniency be shown in this regard. He said this would also give a strong message to the encroacher mafia that they are not above the law.
He admitted that generally the Pathara-walla people belong to poor class, and to protect them more and more bachat bazaars be arranged at available open spaces and grounds in all areas of the city, so that they could also earn bread for their families, but they should not be allowed to occupy streets and footpaths and block the flow of traffic. He said roads and footpaths are for motorists, commuters and pedestrians and occupying them for doing any kind of business is a crime, which should be dealt as per the law of land. He said the Pathara-wallas be allowed to do their business in market areas only when the shops are closed, like on holidays and that too on the condition that they would not obstruct the traffic flow.
Altaf Shakoor, president of Pasban Pakistan, a citizens’ rights organization, said well-organized flea markets be arranged for Pathara-wallas and such other vendors, but they should not let to occupy roads and footpaths. He said in Karachi the issue of illegal encroachments is going complicated as the government lacks political will to tackle this issue. He said it is a sad fact that lucrative incomes derived from illegal businesses of land grabbing, encroachments and extortion is one of the major sources of finance for many political outfits and they do not allow end to these malpractices as it would deprive them for a steady regular income.
He said the government and political parties should think about the future of Karachi and take a decisive action against encroachments before it is too late. He said it is the basic responsibility of the government to ensure the implementation of laws and writ of government and take strict steps against any elements that challenges it. He said traders, shopkeepers and general public should also play their due role in keeping the streets and footpaths encroachment-free. He said using footpaths for business purpose is violation of the rights of pedestrians.
He said millions of Karachiites suffer due to traffic jams because of uncontrolled encroachments. He said the Main University Road remains chocked for hours daily during rush hours from New Town to the NIPA Chowrangi due to encroachments to agonize millions of commuters and motorists but the authorities concerned lack courage to remove encroachments from this artery. He said this is the case of many other busy roads of Karachi which witness daily basis traffic jams. He asked the government, KMC and police to take coordinated efforts to make Karachi an encroachment-free city, as it would also help in better law and order situation of the metropolis.