APC calls for alternative place for KCR affectees

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Staff Reporter An all-parties conference (APC) has demanded that the federal, provincial and city authorities provide decent alternative residential facilities to all the families affected by the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) in accordance with the May 2019 orders of the Supreme Court. The resolution passed at the conference, which was organised by the joint action committee of the KCR affectees in collaboration with the Arts Council, read that the country’s top court had ordered the revival of KCR within a year and the provision of decent alternative houses to the families that had been affected by the project. Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research Executive Director Karamat Ali presided over the APC, while urban town planner Arif Hasan was the keynote speaker of the event. Following the SC’s orders, more than a thousand of the over 4,500 estimated houses have so far been removed from the land of the KRC project. Residents of all those houses have been forced to live in tents set up among the debris of their former homes and without any essential facilities. There are no toilets or water or gas supplies, but families are still living there, stated the resolution. More than 10,000 houses are feared to be demolished from the land of ML-1 (Main Line 1, or the Karachi-Lahore-Peshawar railway line) to run high-speed trains. The project is being developed as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Hasan said the government has demolished thousands of shops and houses of only the poor on the SC’s orders, but it has not taken any measures to rehabilitate the affected families and shopkeepers. He said the properties of political or influential people or government officials have not been touched on the top court’s orders, adding that only the poor have been suffering losses worth billions of rupees. He recalled that the court had issued an order on September 18, 2018 to restore the beauty of Karachi that it had possessed long ago. Since then, he pointed out, the provincial and city authorities have demolished over 6,000 shops in different parts of the city, rendering 12,000 to 14,000 workers unemployed. Around the Empress Market in Saddar alone, more than 1,800 shops have been demolished, which has affected the jobs of 6,500 workers. Three markets around Saddar were selling tea, dried fruits and eggs, and their turnover was over Rs12 billion a year, he said. Sindh Assembly opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi said that before demolishing encroachments, strict action should be taken against those who had allowed them in the first place. “The land mafia people should be caught first,” he said. “Around 1,000 plots are encroached upon through china cutting every day because the governments have not stopped it,” he said, adding that encroachments on both public and private properties should be discouraged. Naqvi said he will appear before the SC on the next hearing scheduled for February 21. He said KCR is a multi-billion-dollar project, adding that it will take three years to complete the finance close.