Over 1,000 shops in Karachi's Saddar demolished as anti-encroachment drive intensifies

KARACHI: The ongoing anti-encroachment operation in Saddar entered its crucial phase as authorities demolished more than 1,000 shops in four markets in the surroundings of the iconic Empress Market in an attempt to restore the British-era structure to its original shape.
The joint operation by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and other civic bodies backed by law enforcers was launched on the directives of the Supreme Court.
Police said no untoward incident took place during the operation, except that a shopkeeper set his own shop on fire in protest.
While authorities said that they had engaged the protesting shopkeepers in talks that led to end of their sit-in, shopkeepers accused the authorities of violating an agreement reached during their meeting with the Karachi commissioner under which they were supposed to give time to remove their goods, furniture, etc, from their shops by Sunday noon.
KMC authorities backed by heavy contingents of police and Rangers brought heavy machinery to the Empress Market on Saturday night.
Roads leading to the Empress Market were closed for vehicular traffic and at 7am the operation was launched.
The authorities said “four illegal markets” dealing with dried fruits, old clothes and a bird market were demolished.
“We have demolished 1,043 shops,” said KMC’s anti-encroachment director Bashir Ahmed Siddiqi.
He said the Empress Market would be restored to its original shape within next 15 days.
Talking to the media, Mr Siddiqi said a task force comprising officials of the KMC, anti-encroachment police and district police had been formed to prevent future encroachment in Saddar.
Preedy SHO Liaquat Mehsud told media that no untoward incident took place during the operation. However, one shopkeeper set his shop on fire apparently in protest during the operation, he added.

Mayor promises alternative places

Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhter, who visited the spot, told the media that beautiful parks would be established in the surroundings of the Empress Market.
He recalled that illegal shops were established on the places where parks existed in the past. Due to this the original master plan of the market was changed, he added.
He clarified that the anti-encroachment drive had been launched on the directions of the chief justice of Pakistan and prime minister.
He promised that the shopkeepers who had been giving rent to the KMC under a 30-year-old agreement would be accommodated at alternative places, preferably in the markets being run by the KMC in other parts of the city.
The mayor said that a committee had been established to this effect and an alternative place would be provided to the shopkeepers in a transparent manner.

Shopkeepers to decide strategy today

Terming the demolition “injustice with shopkeepers”, All Empress Market Associations president Iqbal Kakar told media that a meeting of the affectees would be held on Monday (today) for seeking compensation and alternative places for running business as ‘hundreds of thousands of workers’ had been deprived of their livelihood.
He said that the shopkeepers had ended a protest sit-in on Saturday after successful talks with the Karachi commissioner. It was agreed in the meeting that the shopkeepers would be given time till Sunday noon to take their belongings from their shops.
“As a goodwill gesture and in compliance with the SC order we agreed to end the protest with a heavy heart,” said Mr Kakar, who is also the president of now demolished Umar Farooq Market.
However, he said the authorities violated the agreement and launched their operation at 7am without allowing shopkeepers to take their goods.

‘Goods, furniture worth Rs450m destroyed’

He claimed that he rushed to the scene after receiving information of the operation and reminded the municipal commissioner about the agreement but he expressed his ‘helplessness’ in that regard.
Mr Kakar claimed that at least 1,450 shops located in four markets were demolished, causing an estimated loss of Rs450 million to shopkeepers in the head of goods and furniture.
He said that two old clothes markets adjacent to the Jehangir Park were also demolished despite the fact that the shopkeepers had already approached a court where the first hearing of their case took place on Nov 5 and second hearing was scheduled for Nov 15.
He claimed that the office-bearer of the old clothes market showed court documents to the officials concerned but they (KMC) warned the shopkeepers to take away their old clothes and other stuff ‘within two hours’.