The Supreme Court has forbidden the demolition of houses in the ongoing Karachi anti-encroachment clearing operation
Justice Saqib Nisar ordered that shops built on encroached land must continue to be removed. But in the order, it was not specified what would happen in the case of mixed land use. What happens when there are shops on the ground floor and houses on the first, as is the case across Karachi?
Taking advantage of ambiguity in the Supreme Court’s order, the Pakistan Railway tried to raze encroachments in Hazara Colony near Kalapul in Karachi to demolish houses on shops on Dec 21.
On Friday, at 9:30 am a railway team equipped with heavy machinery and backed by the Railway police with Railway’s gangmen, a total of 150, gathered near Hazara Colony, Kala Pul on the directives of the railway’s divisional superintendent (DS).
As news reached, one of the shopkeepers named Parvaiz Akhter suffered a heart attack. Neighbours and residents took him to Jinnah hospital but he died in the way.
With news of the death, the people gathered at the site and as the railways teams tried to start work, men climbed onto the bulldozer to stop them.
The Hazara Colony residents strongly resisted the operation. The railways team had to leave the area.
SSP South Pir Muhammad Shah, SSP Railway Shehla Qureshi, Pakistan Railways representative Imtiaz Siddiqui and Deputy Commissioner South arrived to talk to the neighbourhood.
After a long discussion both parties agreed on certain points. The Railways would not touch shops considered in mixed land use and with houses on top. From Saturday, the railways will start marking and identifying extended shops in the colony.
The writer is an urban planner, senior research associate at the Karachi Urban Lab, IBA and visiting lecturer at NED UET