Hundreds of residents of Katcha Bunder organised a protest rally and sit-in at Minara Road near Sukkur Press Club on Friday, over concerns of eviction from their homes.
The protesters, led by Sudheer Mirbahar, Samano Mirani, Bux Ali Mirani, shouted slogans against the government and the elected representatives of Sukkur as they marched on the main roads of the city. Traffic was suspended for more than an hour.
“We were born within the bunder walls and we want to die there,” an emotional protester, Kaloo, told The Express Tribune. He lashed out at the elected representatives, saying they had earlier promised to construct 1,500 flats for them at Numaish road. “They changed their stance and asked us to accept Rs500,000 per family and leave. Now, they want us to take Rs250,000 and leave or prepare for forcible eviction,” a visibly angry Kaloo concluded.
An elderly protester, Ghulam Ali, said that when his family shifted to Katcha Bunder, he was 18 years old. “I have spent nearly half a decade there,” the 60-year-old Ali said. “They [elected representatives] are declaring us illegal occupants.” He said that the representatives had wasted all the good work of the past by their recent actions. “When it’s election time, they come to us and embrace us. But once they have our vote, they refuse to own us.”
A young woman, Safia, said that her family had moved to the locality just four months ago. “We bought the house for Rs400,000, and now the government wants us to leave it. Please tell me where we are supposed to go?” she asked. “I ask these MNAs and MPAs if they can leave their houses on a 48-hour notice?”
Later the protesters tried to march towards Sukkur House, the residence of the Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Islamuddin Shaikh. A heavy contingent of police stopped them and they dispersed peacefully after registering their protest.
There are at least 5,000 houses in Katcha Bunder but the number is increasing. Several major iron merchants have also constructed illegal warehouses, and they are making a windfall renting them. It is believed that the construction took place due to the patronage of certain influential individuals. Three high-rise commercial and residential plazas are also being built along the river bank and inside the bunder wall. Four mosques are also nearing completion. All these structures are illegal. Despite repeated attempts, the Sukkur DCO could not be reached. Senator Shaikh was also unavailable, even though The Express Tribune visited Sukkur House.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2011.
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