Demolition Row

Karachi’s double standards over land encroachment

Half a kilometre from Aladin Park, where the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation demolished illegally constructed shops, the army has constructed a housing complex, wedding halls and a cinema on land granted to it for an ordinance depot. Fawad Hasan
31 July, 2021

It was the first working day of the week, and Abid Asghar woke up early to head to his small office in Karachi’s central district. This was no ordinary Monday, however. Asghar and his comrades had taken time off from their jobs for a far more important task: preventing thousands of houses from being demolished in Karachi.

“Around 9 am on 21 June, we were making placards for our protest, which was supposed to take place in front of Bilawal House”—the headquarters of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which heads the provincial government in Sindh—“to demand our just rights and fair compensation for the broken houses,” Asghar told me. “However, I received a call from someone and got to know that they are going to arrest me soon.”

Soon after he left, seven police vans, with at least ten plainclothes intelligence officers and around fifty policemen in uniform, raided the area. “They entered my office,” Asghar said, and “seized the banners, posters, all the files containing important data about the demolitions and the funds of a hundred thousand rupees we had painstakingly collected. All gone in seconds.”

Asghar managed to evade the policemen and reach the protest site. Only a handful of protesters had managed to reach Bilawal House, which was heavily guarded by anti-riot policemen. The protesters began chanting slogans against the PPP government, which, they allege, is working with the deep state to steal homes from Karachi’s working-class residents. Within five minutes, all the protesters, as well as several journalists, were arrested.