Although delayed, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a statement on November 23 regarding the anti-encroachment drive that took place in Saddar last week. Karachi has been undergoing the beginning of a major transformation towards gentrification — so it seems. While superficially the clean-up operation seems appropriate, there are several nuances about the approach taken by authorities which has caused alarm in the HRCP as well as concerned citizens.
It must be underscored that in calling for a resettlement plan for the displaced, the illegality of their encroachment is not being ignored. The city municipality has support for reclaiming land that has been illegally occupied. However, the manner in which it was stripped away from lower socioeconomic status (SES) shop owners is harsh. A resettlement plan with compensation should imperatively be offered. Alternatively, to preserve the character of certain areas, such as Empress Market, a limited number of vendor permits could be offered to restore some vendor operations. Fittingly, the push to preserve cultural heritage would be more complete if some of the small business owners could be allowed to operate as they have been for more than half a century, which in the entire history of this country, is significantly more than half of its entire existence.
In a rare display, persons from higher socioeconomic classes seem to be publicly demonstrating concern for citizens from lower SES. Previously, the display of concern was restricted to hiring and exploiting members of lower SES as a means of helping them out. However, the push for policy change is now more prominent with people putting onus on harsh government policies. The HRCP, in a resounding statement, takes notice of the bare minimum the government did to facilitate impoverished small business owners by issuing notices a short time in advance. We are in full support of the statement by HRCP and demand a more humanistic approach.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2018.
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