SUBWAY.Aqsooda Bibi, 62, did not know that the house she had lived in all her life would be demolished, forcing her entire family to become homeless. But on Monday, Pakistan’s supreme court backed the Sindh government to demolish his home and hundreds of others, legalizing the eviction of thousands of people living along narrow waterways. nullahs – that crosses Karachi.
The verdict came when Bibi and hundreds of others staged a protest in front of the court. “We expected the court to ask the government not to make us homeless, but it did the opposite. Our children also protested on Sunday and urged the supreme court to stop the demolition. It seems that no one here cares about the future of the poor. “
At least 8,000 houses are being torn down along the nullahs. The work, which began in February, responds to the Karachi floods in 2020 who saw drowned nullahs overflow and flood the city. The World Bank finances improvements to Karachi’s water and sewerage systems.
As people watched their houses turn to rubble, civil society organizations approached the court to try to stop the evictions. They said the houses were not to blame for blocking the waterways.
But on Monday the supreme court rejected the request.
While dozens of people told The Guardian that they were renting their houses, the court said that any leasing of land throughout the nullahs was illegal. Activists and writers have called the decision “unfair.” Writer Fatima Bhutto, from the Bhutto political dynasty, tweeted: “Supreme court decision is a tragedy.”
In an editorial, Pakistan’s largest English daily Dawn said: “Demolition of houses located nine meters on both sides of the Gujjar and Orangi nullahs will continue. When this exercise is completed (before this year’s monsoon, according to the plan), perhaps at least 100,000 people would have been left homeless. Up to 21,000 children would not go to school and would live outdoors. “
Bibi’s house was her family’s home for five decades. He shared it with four daughters and three sons-in-law. “We all started living on the grass after our house was demolished, but now the grass will be taken from us. At first they took our refuge, now they will take our land, ”he says.
Muhammad Shahid is a heart patient whose house was demolished a month ago. He expected justice from the court. He was home when his house was razed around 11 a.m.
“We are defenseless. Where should we go? We cannot die or live. I had an angiogram and now I can’t work. My children are not educated enough. My wife had a paralysis attack, ”says Shahid. He says that even he has not received the 90,000 Pakistani rupees (£ 410) promised by the government.
Muhammad Aslam received some compensation for the loss of his home. But he says it is not enough. He says: “I want to return the amount because it does not serve four families.” He lives with 28 other people in a room and a tent after his two-story house was demolished. “We are concerned in every way, there is no gas or electricity or even sanitation. This is not living, ”says Aslam.
Architect and urban planner Arif Hasan says the government did not have a “proper plan.” “They are not doing it simply to stop the flood, but to make long roads along the nullahs. connecting the Lyari Highway to the northern ring road, displacing the poor and benefiting the rich. ”He says the World Bank should denounce the Sindh government as forced evictions go against the bank’s policies.
Muhammad Abid Asghar was one of the first to lose his home, on February 2. With others, he established the Gujjar Nala Victims Committee and, with activists from Karachi Bachao Tehreek (Save Karachi Movement), he went to the Sindh High Court.
After chalking anti-demolition slogans on city walls, activists say they were summoned by the World Bank team for a meeting in April.
“We believed that the bank was financing the evictions, but the World Bank denied it. They assured us that the rented houses would not be demolished. “
Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah also says the World Bank is not linked to the evictions. “The government will help the residents with the rehabilitation,” he says, adding that “no more than 5%” of the residents were against the demolition works.
The World Bank did not respond to a request for comment.