The name of that real estate: Bahria Town Karachi (BTK), a sprawling, upmarket gated community being constructed off the Super Highway in the outer reaches of Pakistan’s largest city.
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“The job was quickly completed and the rubble hauled away while hapless villagers looked on in a daze, knowing full well there will be no justice for them,” said Ameer Ali, one of the residents. “The police have been arresting our people, threatening them that they’ll show their arrest as being from places such as Wana, Mastung or Kalat,” said Kanda Khan Gabol.
“They took me into custody for several hours and only let me go when a crowd gathered and it seemed as if the highway would be closed down.” The problems for the villagers began on Feb 9, when they had resisted the first attempt by personnel from Bahria Town and the Malir Development Authority (MDA) – accompanied by a large contingent of police and bulldozers – to have the way cleared for a road through Juma Morio.
Since Ms Rahman’s death however, that process has come to a standstill.
And that suits the preferred modus operandi of ‘developers’ very well.
In response, MDA officials lodged an FIR in which they accused Kanda Khan Gabol, Ameer Ali and a dozen other villagers of firing at them.
Even though the challan did not furnish, amongst other things, any proof of MDA’s ownership of the land in question, Judge Sher Muhammad Kolachi ordered the inclusion of Section 6(2)C(L)(M) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 in the criminally defective FIR.
“That was a kind of warning that next time they would cart away our women as well.” The raid was the sequel to events of a few days earlier when a police contingent, also led by Inspector Khan Nawaz, had surrounded the village to force them to vacate the land for a road to be constructed through it, which the villagers had refused to do.
Instead, they filed a petition in the Sindh High Court (SHC), pleading that MDA, Bahria, and police be restrained from “interfering, encroaching upon, harassing or blackmailing the petitioners, their families and dispossessing them from their lawful possession of their land”.
Malir, which measures 2,557 square kilometres or 631,848 acres, is Karachi’s largest district.
Much of it comprises agricultural land, residents land title, which means they can’t be evicted as before,” said Anwar Rashid, director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP).
“Even if developers use strong-arm tactics, regularisation means that the cost of the land increases ten-fold, sometimes even more.”Since 2006, until her murder in 2013, Perween Rahman, the then OPP director and ardent defender of Karachi’s resources and its marginalised millions’ right to basic services, had started to painstakingly document the many in Karachi, out of which 817 were in Gadap alone, where BTK continues to expand.