Merits of the Anti-Encroachment Drive in Karachi
We are all aware of the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in Karachi. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar gave orders to demolish and bulldoze all encroached areas in the city in order to revive the old beauty of Karachi. These areas included shops, marriage halls, parks, street schools, cafes, restaurants and many other illegally occupied quarters. The requisite operation commenced in the old bazaars of the city stretching from Empress Market, Bolton Market, Saddar, North Nazimabad and countless other localities.
As per information from various sources, around 3,575 shops have so far been demolished, directly affecting no less than 17,500 workers if we estimate five people on average tied to each shop. The number of other affected people has soared to 140,000.
The Mayor of Karachi, Mr Waseem Akhtar has stated that, “Political parties who were previously in power are responsible for this situation of Karachi.” He further added that, “Whoever wants to make their habitation on footpaths and encampments, they do not hesitate to do so.”
It is quite evident that such an act by the government would definitely improve the cityscape and the town will be more presentable. Intruding stalls and temporary settlements along the roadsides has led to congestion and traffic problems in the city. It gives a chaotic and muddled appearance of the different roads and streets of Karachi, hence preventing encroachment would lead to tidiness and an immaculate road structure. This would also provide sufficient space for cars to pass by effortlessly and avoid obstruction. A major defect that would also be corrected would be the illicit occupation by many marketeers who have been continuing on with their jobs and settlers who have been living for substantially prolonged periods of time. An action of checks and balances would ensure that no one attempts to proceed in a manner which is prohibited, and the masses would be well informed that some form of higher authority keeps scrutiny and a close inspection of the the actions undertaken by the general citizens and other institutions.
Therefore, necessary steps are indeed being taken by the relevant authorities in order to execute the anti-encroachment drive, who also know that it is incumbent upon them to take action with full commitment, as Justice Gulzar Ahmed of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has also expressed that, “All departments will have to play an active role to restore the old face of Karachi.”
The Chief Secretary of Sindh has also told reporters that steps should be taken to beautify the city. “[We] have assured the Supreme Court that the Sindh government and all departments will fully cooperate in this regard,” he added.
However, things are not as straightforward and simple as they seem. The drive may seem to benefit the city but does it benefit the citizens too? In response to the anti-encroachment drive, there has been widespread resentment as numerous people who own both small and large scale businesses have been miserably disadvantaged. People who were settled in cramped huts and incommodious shelters along the roads and corners of the avenues have been given the ultimatum to wind up and move out of these places permanently. It is indeed to their detriment that they will lose their exclusive and sole way of making a livelihood. As a result, this raises a disturbing question as to how they will survive, as their only source of income is being razed down brutally. These sufferers continue to argue about why the government has now deduced the idea of demolishing their businesses when it has taken them a lifetime of continuous hard work to establish a reputation and firm footing in the business world among extensive competition. Many also claim that such mistreatment by the government towards regular taxpayers is unfair. Many vendors and retailers have also claimed that every shop has lost a huge amount of money due to the anti-encroachment drive and they should be compensated or at least given the option to move to another place so that they can resume their economic activities.
“The informal nature of bazaars, their operators and scores of support services that sustain the activity on a massive scale, makes projecting the public and private financial loss next to impossible. If someone is to quantify the loss to business since the drive started last month it would easily run in billions of rupees,” commented Rafique Jadoon, a leader of traders at the Bolton Market.
On the other hand, the Mayor of Karachi, Mr Waseem Akhtar has commented that, “We have a record for every shop in the estate department and the people with genuine complaints will be adjusted in other markets in Karachi.”
While the initiative of the anti-encroachment drive has aimed to beautify the city and restore the original Karachi, it has, at the same time, been a ghastly blow to the owners of different bargain basements and shops that have been established since long.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which she might be associated.