KARACHI: The anti-encroachment drive in Saddar had to be suspended on Wednesday as the authorities faced resistance from the shopkeepers who created some law and order situation. On the third day of the drive being carried out on the orders of the Supreme Court, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) was supposed to demolish its own markets and shops around the Empress Market.
As the shopkeepers protested while resisting the demolitions, the police resorted to baton charge and aerial firing to disperse the shopkeepers. It all led to a traffic jam and even the pedestrians were unable to find their way on the roads. Two persons on a motorbike were injured as they were hit during the demolition operation. This turned protestors more violent and miscreants were seen pelting stones at the KMC staff and engaged in aerial firing, which led the authorities to suspend the operation for the day.
The road from Capri Cinema to Saddar was closed for traffic while diversions were made through MA Jinnah Road towards Tibet Centre. School van drivers were also asked not to use Saddar and adjoining roads for their routes. Later in the day, the road from Regal Chowk towards Saddar was also closed for traffic.
When the operation formally kicked off, the shopkeepers gathered outside their markets, and the KMC staff continued to make announcements on loudspeakers asking them to disperse. The shopkeepers chanted slogans against the KMC and staged a sit-in outside their markets. The shopkeepers who negotiated with the Karachi Commissioner were given a three-hour extension from KMC but it couldn’t work out as they demanded an alternative place for their shops. “We give monthly rent to the KMC,” said a shopkeeper Mansoor Khan, “we are here for more than 40 years. How can we leave our bread and butter?”
Speaking to media, KMC anti-encroachment Director Bashir Siddiqi also accepted that the shopkeepers of Umer Farooqi were their tenants. “KMC is the owner of this market,” he said adding that it was mentioned in the agreement that whenever the authority would want, the tenants will have to vacate these markets. The rent of the shop, according to him was on Rs600 per month.
The operation started in Saddar on Monday and continued on Tuesday when scores of roadside stalls were removed and illegal shops were razed to the ground as the authorities, aided by law enforcement and other civic agencies, clamped down on the illegal constructions on Preedy Street, Express Market, Jahangir Park and other streets in Saddar. No major law and order situation occurred in first two days.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2018.