AWP opposes regularisation of Bahria Town, DHA illegal land occupation, demolition of houses of poor people along Gujjar Nullah, Orangi Nullah, and Gulshan-e-Mustafa for road project
Karachi/Islamabad, 27th June: Thousands of rights activists, political workers, students, women and katchi abadi residents took to the streets across Pakistan, and Gilgit-Baltistan on Sunday to protest the ongoing grabbing of land by Bahria Town, DHA, in Sindh and around the country as well as the recent abduction of AWP Sindh member Seengar Noonari by Rangers.
The protesters carrying banners and placards inscribed with their demands raised slogans against displacement of thousands of indigenous people in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi by Bahria Town, DHA and other mega projects like the Gujjar Nullah expressway, Rawalpindi Ring Road, Dadhocha dam and Ravi Urban Development Authority.
The protesters also demanded release of Seengar who was abducted one day before the party’s country-wide protest, as well as the arrest of other Sindhi nationalist and progressive activists after the protest in Karachi on June 6.
They also raised slogans against the Sindh government and Rangers’ personnel who carried out these abductions and demanded action against them.
In Karachi hundreds of people assembled at the Karachi Press Club against occupation of land by Bahria Town, DHA, and eviction of slum dwellers in Gujjar Nullah, Orangi Nulla, Gulshan-e-Mustafa, Lemon Goth, and Nasla Tower.
The protest was part of a countrywide day of action called by the AWP and Sindh Indigenous Rights Alliance against Bahria Town and state-led displacement in Sindh.
The participants of the protest at the KPC were joined by a march organised by the Sindh Indigenous Rights Alliance from Regal Chowk to KPC. They were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the ongoing demolition campaign in Gujjar Nullah and Orangi Nullah, and displacement of people by Bahria Town and DHA and chanted slogans against the Sindh government.
Addressing to the participants, AWP President Yousuf Mustikhan criticised the Sindh government for selling the ancestral lands of the indigenous people to Malik Riaz, DHA and other real estate mafias on a throw away prices by depriving the working class and poor people of their shelters and land.
He condemned the security apparatus for abducting activists like Seengar for raising their voice against oppression and displacement.
AWP general secretary Akhtar Hussain also condemned the abduction of Seengar and urged Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed to take notice of the situation, reconsider his decision on demolitions and not to punish the people for the mistakes of KMC, KDA and Sindh Katchi Abadi Authorities who issued leases to the displaced people.
He dispelled the impression that these lessees are sitting on the drains. All the demolished houses are located far away from the drains. The houses are being razed to ground to pave way for a 30-feet road project.
Hafeez Baloch of the SIRA and the former secretary said that there is a nexus between the Sindh government and the real estate mafia who are responsible for the situation arising in Malir and Gadap.
The Malir Development Authority sold lands to various builders; the federal government and the courts regularised these illegal occupations instead of restoring the land to the local population by imposing fines on the mafias who are grabbing more lands under the patronage of the government while the protesters are being imprisoned, he said.
Gujjar Nulla Affectees Committee president Abid Asghar said that the SC has done injustice to the poor by issuing demolition orders of the leased lands of Gujjar Nullah.
He also slammed PPP leadership saying on the one hand Bilawal Bhutto speaks against the SC decision but on the other hand allows building the 30-feet road which has no justification by razing poor people’s houses.
Arsalan Anjum, head of the Orangi Nullah Affectees Committee, said that on June 21, the affected people were arrested and tortured for protesting outside Bilawal House. The government team headed by Saeed Ghani assured us that the demolition will be scaled down and he would present fresh recommendations to the Sindh chief minister this week and provide alternatives and compensation, but instead of stopping, the drive, demolition is now being expedited and expanded by marking 40 feet on both sides instead of 30 feet.
Representing Gulshan-e-Mustafa affected people, Ali said that it is a legitimate project but some builders and government officials are trying to grab our lands.
He urged the courts, the government and civic agencies to stop the demolition of legitimate homes.
AWP Karachi President Shafi Sheikh assured the participants that his party will continue to fight against the builders’ mafia under Karachi Bachao Tehreek.
AWP Karachi’s General Secretary Khurram Ali said that if the Sindh government was sincere to the people, it should immediately stop the demolition and tell the Supreme Court that there are no encroachments on drains.
He also demanded to trash the bogus survey conducted by NED University and work on the Parveen Rahman’s plan in which she had offered a solution to water and drainage problems without demolishing a house.
Protests were also organized in Hyderabad, Moro, Nawabsha, Naseerabad, Sanghar, Sakrand, Khaipur Nathan Shah, Kashmore, Larkana and Ghotki for the release of Seengar and for the rights of the peasants and workers.
HYDERABAD: A rally was organized by AWP and Sindh Indigenous Rights Alliance against Bahria Town, other mega housing projects as well as enforced disappearance of an activist, Seengar Noonari.
AWP Sindh president Bakhshal Thallu, Aslam Parvez Umrani, Comrade Iqbal Khan and others said in their speeches before the rally’s participants outside local press club that Bahria Town Karachi was not a project of development but it was aimed at displacing local people and occupy Sindhi people’s land.
They said that hidden powers in collusion with men like Malik Riaz and provincial and federal governments wanted to occupy Sindh’s boundaries in Thar, Kohistan and middle Sindh.
They said that Noonari was picked up few days back and his whereabouts remained unknown. Political activists were languishing in jails after being slapped with false cases, they said.
They said that bulldozer of capitalism was demolishing villages in rural areas and katchi abadis in urban centres.
HRCP Sindh coordinator Imdad Chandio, Ameer Azad Panhwar of Sindh United Party, Sindh Hari Committee’s Manzoor Thaheem and others also joined the protest.
LARKANA: Activists of AWP and other nationalist parties brought out a rally outside Larkana Press Club.
The leaders of almost all component parties of Sindh Action Committee like Awami Workers Party, Sindh United Party, Jeay Sindh Mahaz, who led the protest, alleged Sindh’s land was being dished out at throwaway rates to influential builders on the pretext of mega development projects. These unscrupulous builders then dismantled old settlements and rendered agricultural land barren with huge constructions, they said.
They said that activists like Seengar Noonari who raised voice against such injustices were booked in different cases to gag their voice.
They demanded immediate release of Seengar, Sanan Qureshi, and others and urged the government to provide alternate residential facilities to residents of Gujjar nullah and Orangi nullah before dispossessing them.
MIRPURKHAS: Dozens of activists held a demonstration outside the local press club to protest against Bahria Town, DHA, and other housing projects.
The protesters’ leaders Zahoor Leghari, Ramzan Dal, Taj Baloch, and others demanded a halt to the occupation of land by Bahria Town, DHA, and others.
They alleged that old Sindhi villages were being demolished. Outsiders were grabbing Sindh’s land from Karachi to Jamshoro on the pretext of building housing schemes, they said.
They said that courts had given a decision against Bahria Town but its owner Malik Riaz did not accept the verdict which was a clear affront to the judiciary. Sindhi people would never accept the occupation of their land by unscrupulous tycoons, they warned.
In Islamabad, hundreds of people gathered outside National Press Club on the call of AWP and its Progressive parties’ alliance the Muttahida Awami Movement and included participation from various left groups, unions and organizations, members of the National Party, Mazdoor Kissan Party, Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Women Democratic Front, Alliance for Katchi Abadis, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign, Pakistan Inqilabi Party, Progressive Students Federation, and Revolutionary Students Federation among others.
Addressing the protest, AWP Punjab President Ammar Rashid said that Seengar’s abduction was evidence of how the Sindh and federal governments were both in the pockets of the real estate giant and willing to use force to silence any challenge to his illegal land grabbing.
He said that all mainstream parties were beholden to these real estate mafias and were completely unwilling to stand for the rights of the people being displaced.
He said that this entire model of development needed to be questioned whereby land and natural resources were being commodified and used for speculation, which was only serving the interests of propertied elites, while hurting farmers and the working poor, and diverting resources from agriculture and other productive sectors of the economy.
He said that activists like Seengar were being punished because they spoke for working classes and indigenous people, and said that unless he was released immediately, AWP would start a countrywide movement to expose the nexus of mafias and state machinery behind such oppression.
AWP federal committee member Aasim Sajjad said that the ongoing evictions by Bahria Town Karachi and in Gujjar Nullah represented just the tip of the iceberg and that thousands of similar evictions went unnoticed throughout the country.
He said that rural working people were forced to give up their lands and homes out of fear of violent reprisals while katchi abadi residents were constantly at the risk of eviction because city managers did not want to give up profitable real estate to meet working people’s needs.
Speaking on the occasion, Women Democratic Front’s Shahzadi Hussain said that evictions and dispossession were a feminist issue and women and children suffered the most when they were deprived of their homes. She said that hundreds of working class families in Kathor, Malir and Gujjar Nullah had already been deprived of shelter in recent weeks and were living under the open skies.
Speaking on the occasion, National Party Punjab president Ayub Malik said that people across the country were suffering from the takeover of land and natural resources by powerful developers and state elites.
He said that from Gilgit-Baltistan to Gwadar, people were being deprived from their rightful share of the resources from their lands which were being handed over to domestic and international capitalists.
Minhaj Swati of the Progressive Students Federation said that the ongoing displacement in Karachi was part of the same process that had led to the demolition of I-11 katchi abadi.
He said on the one hand, people were being forced off their agricultural lands to make way for elite housing schemes while on the other, workers who came to cities for employment and to escape war were brutally evicted from the katchi abadis where they were forced to shelter.
He said that even students who came to cities for education could not find affordable accommodation and when they tried to find alternatives, were evicted by CDA and other anti-people institutions.
Affectees facing eviction due to the Rawalpindi Ring Road project and Dadhocha Dam also attended the protest.
Fayaz Gilani, of the Ring Road Affectees Committee said that farmers and working class locals were being forced to sell their fertile agricultural land at throwaway rates due to the change in route of the Ring Road, which was done to meet the needs of large property developers.
Ajmal Khan of the Dadhocha Dam Affected People’s Committee said that despite the Lahore High Court ruling in their favor that the land acquisition for the dam was carried out illegally, the administration and FWO were continuing work on the project without consultation with the local residents. They said the affected would accelerate their protest in the coming days unless their demands were heeded.