Karachi Circular Railway anti-encroachment operation to start today: official

Joint Director of Land and Railway Imtiaz Siddiqui announced that the anti-encroachment drive to clear the land allocated for the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) has been delayed by a day.

The drive was scheduled to start from today but Siddiqui said that authorities granted the people occupying the KCR land an additional day to vacate their shops and homes.

Siddiqui, while talking to the media, said that the authorities would now initiate the operation from the furniture market in Karachi’s Ghareebabad area.

“We don’t want anyone to suffer any losses,” the official said, adding that the people had already been issued a notice.

Siddiqui noted that 1,200 encroachments stood intact on the land earmarked for the defunct metro rail system.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation plans on vacating about 360 acres from encroachers after an order issued by the Supreme Court last month in this regard.

As many as 5,653 illegally constructed structures are expected to be razed during the operation to clear more than 29 acres of KCR land.

So far, more than 3,000 shops have been demolished in different areas of Karachi, according to estimates based on information accessed from multiple official.

Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar, however, has promised that the authorities will relocate shops that had been razed in recent days during the ongoing anti-encroachment operation.

The Sindh chief minister has also ordered that the affectees be compensated. However, the authorities have not provided a concrete plan for the rehabilitation of the displaced people as yet.

Following the outcry against the operation by the business community, the Centre last week decided to file a review petition in the Supreme Court against the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the metropolis.

On his day-long visit to Karachi yesterday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had declared that the government will stand by the people who had fallen victims to the anti-encroachment operation and would not allow exploitation of citizens under the guise of the ongoing drive.

Complexities of encroachment

According to researchers at the Karachi Urban Lab (KUL), maps show that the KCR starts from the Drigh Road Station on the Pakistan Railways main line and, after crossing Sharea Faisal short of Karachi airport, it passes through populated areas of Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Liaquatabad, Nazimabad, SITE, Baldia, Lyari, Kharadar, Mithadar and finally touches Karachi City Station.

“The KCR is a 29.32km single-track, wide-gauge railway, along 16 stations. And there are a total of 4,653 families living in 28 different settlements all across Karachi that are being forced to move because of this project. Sindh government’s own study in 2011 established that 70pc of these residents have been living in these settlements for at least 20 years,” said KUL researcher Arsam Saleem while presenting his study regarding the anti-encroachment operation in Karachi on Saturday.

The housing demand in Karachi is estimated at 80,000 new units per year. “The formal sector supplies 32,000 housing units and another 32,000 are built in katchi abadis. Meanwhile, 75.5pc of the city’s residents are classified as poor, and as such they constitute the majority of the unmet demand. The result has been the continuous demand for katchi abadis,” according to KUL researchers.

But buying, selling or renting an accommodation is not easy either. Citizens are not sure if they are being defrauded and whether or not the schemes they are investing in are legal. KUL ascribes this insecurity to Karachi’s conflicts and the informalisation of the formal sector in housing and development.

“Encroachment is not a poor person looking to save some petty cash. It is a complex network involving government institutions, in an official or unofficial capacity, seeking to reap the rewards of quick land dispensation with none of the risks attached,” said Saleem.

Operation at M9

Meanwhile, authorities started an operation against encroachments along the Karachi-Hyderabad M9 motorway.

The encroachments are being removed through the use of heavy machinery, media reported.

A heavy contingent of police is present at the site of the action.