KARACHI: It seems as if the delays in the completion of the Education City project can be attributed to the demonstrations of hundreds of villagers who are in danger of losing their homes if the project becomes a reality.
To protest against the demolition of their neighbourhoods in Deh Chhohar, UC Darsano Chano and Gadap Town, these villagers took to the streets at 9 am on Thursday, blocking the link road that connects the National Highway to the Super Highway, setting tyres on fire and pelting stones at vehicles. They demanded that the government withdraw its decision of demolishing their villages to construct the mega project.
Bakhsho Jokhio Goth, a part of the 9,000-acre plot of land that was earmarked by the government for the construction of campuses of the city’s various universities in 2006, was besieged with officials of the police and the revenue department at 8 am on Thursday after the area was tagged as the inaugural site of the demolition plan.
In reaction, the villagers stepped forward to stop the officials from going ahead with the demolition.
“Why does the government want to demolish our villages, where people have been living for years? Why not pick an empty stretch of land for the project?” Mujahid Jokhio, the former UC nazim of the area, questioned.
Around 10,000 to 15,000 people from 26 villages, including Jam Maher Ali Jokhio, Mehmood Jamote Goth, Khair Mohammed Khashkheli, Raza Mohammed Goth, Ibrahim Jokhio Goth, Dodo Jokhio Goth, Fazal Jamote Goth, Umar Goth and Kamal Bikak Goth, have been issued notices to vacate the area, he said. “Billions of rupees have been invested in development schemes like roads, schools and water sanitation facilities in the area. I don’t know why the government has chosen this place for the project,” he added.
Forty-year-old Haleema Jokhio, a resident of the Mehmood Jamote Goth, said that his family has been settled in the area for about 100 years.
“Elected representatives of the area promised us many a time that they will provide us with all the facilities in the area. And now here they are demolishing our houses. I will die but never let them destroy my house,” she said.
“We will not move from here until the government does not take back its decision,” warned Abdul Malik, one of the many villagers who had come prepared to continue the protest till nightfall, if need be.
“We have contacted the CM House and other party leaders,” said Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Malir president Razzaq Raja, who added that the party will not allow villages to be demolished and that he will resign from the PPP if he had to, in order to support the residents of the area.
“These villagers support our party,” said Raja, who said that he will contact the police and revenue officials in efforts to resolve the issue.
“We encourage the Education City project. But it should not be built by demolishing houses that have been in the area for centuries,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2010.
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