Over two dozen men, women and children were injured when the police tear-gassed and baton-charged residents of the Katcha Bunder during a protest on Wednesday.
The residents were protesting against the forcible demolition of their shops and houses. Over 30 people were arrested and locked up in police stations across the city.
Compensation cheques were distributed among the residents of Katcha Bunder on Tuesday evening, as promised by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Islamuddin Shaikh. The senator also promised them that residents will be given enough time to vacate their houses.
However, early Wednesday morning, heavy contingents of police arrived at Bunder Road, with heavy machinery. Led by City DSP Mushtaq Shah, they started demolishing the houses and shops near Makrani mosque.
The demolition triggered a reaction from residents, who came out and started pelting stones at the police and cars. As the mob grew larger, the protesters resorted to violence and broke car windshields and damaged electric meters on the road. Bunder Road resembled a battlefield, with shattered glass and tyres and broken furniture pieces burning across the road.
In order to control the situation, the police began firing teargas shells and resorted to baton charge, injuring residents and protesters. Though their method worked for awhile, the protesters played hide and seek with the police all day. The police later raided and ransacked houses in Katcha Bunder to arrest 30 people.
Two of the protesters, Mumtaz Mirani and Imdad Mirani, told The Express Tribune that large-scale corruption plagued the housing survey in Katcha Bunder. “The favourites [activists from a particular political party] who have huts were placed in category ‘A’ and received cheques of Rs600,000 instead of the amount they were supposed to receive, which was Rs200,000,” claimed a protester. They also alleged that names of people who have never lived in Katcha Bunder were also included on the list.
Protesters also complained about the process of receiving cheques. “When we went to the bank to get the money, the bank officials told us that first we need to open an account and then we will get a cheque book,” he complained.
“Four high-rise commercial and residential plazas are constructed inside the Bunder Wall area but the administration has not touched them because they are working with the builder mafia,” claimed another protester.
Islamuddin Shaikh could not be contacted for his comments, but his media manager, Aijaz, said the survey process was transparent. “The revenue officials conducted the Katcha Bunder housing survey in a transparent manner. Therefore, the question of favouritism does not arise,” he said.
The police demolished only shops and not houses inside the Bunder Wall, he added. Aijaz assured residents that they would all be compensated as promised.
Protesters also said that the Sukkur Electric Power Company (Sepco) took advantage of the situation and shut down the new feeder on Bunder Road from 8 am on Wednesday morning. The damages caused to some of the electric meters by the protesters provided Sepco the chance to keep the new feeder close for a long time, under the pretext of ‘repairing and maintenance’. Power supply to the new feeder was not restored till the filing of this report.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2011.