KARACHI: At a time when the general elections are four months away, the federal government of PML-N has once again initiated the process of scrutiny of the occupants of residential units in federal colonies in Karachi.
The move came after the Senate committee for housing and works recommended that details of the inhabitants of apartments and houses of these neighbourhoods be checked.
The sudden move has drawn strong reservations from important political parties of Karachi which termed it a conspiracy to divide the vote bank. They have hinted that they might approach courts and resort to protests against the move.
Muttahia Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) has been winning elections in these areas in the past which can create unrest in Karachi.
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The estate office said that a special survey is being conducted to identify illegal occupants. Action will be taken after approval from the federal government, and with the help of provincial, district authorities and law enforcement agencies.
A meeting of the Senate committee took place on January 17 chaired by Maulna Tanveerul Haque. The meeting discussed how hundreds of people were occupying the houses and apartments illegally. Most of the properties have been sold by the mafias which include persons from the estate office.
The meeting then decided to gather information about the occupants.
The Additional Estates Officer of Karachi Bashir Ahmed issued an office order with the approval of Ministry of Housing on January 30 forming five survey teams for federal colonies in Karachi.
Superintendents Estate Office Zafar Iqbal and Shakil Ahmed will supervise the survey work. Each team consists of four officials of the estate office.
FC area team will be lead by Inspector Muhammad Amin, Jahangir road (west and clyton road) team will be led by Hanifur Rehman, Jahangir road west old Lalukhet team will be led by Muhammad Achar, Pakistan quarter and Garden team will be lead by Arif Awan, Jail road and Martin quarters team in the charge of Qutubuddin.
The teams have started the survey work and will complete it in 10 days.
The survey form is a comprehensive data collection technique. The form requires information about the residents, pay slips of the serving employees of the house, copies of pension book of widows, in case of death of employees. The data collected will be sent to the Housing ministry which may decide any course of action against the illegal residents.
The survey has spread fear in these colonies and the federal government may face a reaction from various parties. There are about 8,000 houses and flats of the federal government in Martin quarters, Clyton road and Patel para.
Maulana Tanveerul Haque told The Express Tribune that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Noman Wazir raised that point in the January 17 meeting of the Senate committee. Wazir said that in Karachi families of retired and deceased employees can retain government's resident units, then this policy should be implemented nationwide.
The purpose of this survey is to solely collect data. No evacuation process is initiated or will be anytime soon. If any such steps are taken the issue will be raised in the parliament and can be taken to the courts.
Wazir further stated that the Senate committee will futher dicuss the issue in the sessions scheduled on February 6 and 7. He said that the federal government will decide the plan of action in the illegal occupants residing in Karachi.
The senator also added that survey teams will be trained and taught to not bother the legal residents in the area, and in case of any complaints, the government shall take action. Wazir states that the government has agreed that no family of retired or deceased employees will be expelled from the housing without allocation of alternate residence.
Federal Estate Officer Obaid Uddin told The Express Tribune that the purpose of the survey is not to evacuate anyone out of the houses, but to collect details about the residents of the federal colonies. The data will be digitally recorded.
Spokesperson of MQM-P Aminul Haque said that the sudden survey of these colonies was "beyond his comprehension" where his party has a vote bank. If it is followed by an evacuation activity, the issue will be taken to the court and raised in the parliament and before the prime minister as well.
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Pakistan Sarzameen Party (PSP) President Anees Qaimkhani said that the chairman of the Senate standing committee belongs MQM-P. "Why he did not raise the issue in five years," he questioned. The purpose of a survey, just ahead of the elections, is to "harass the residents."
PSP will also retort to legal measure and public agitation if the government try to evacuate the houses.
The Express Tribune made several attempts to contact Additional Estate officer of Karachi Muhammad Bashir but to no avail. Sources claim that Bashir has allegedly, and in secret, handed over important issues of the office to a driver of the office, Muhammad Imran, who is involved in multiple illegal activities and is causing havoc for his colleagues.
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