Fact-finding mission: ‘Overpopulation and uneven development have led to violence’

New ethnic settlements are increasing polarization.

Express October 12, 2011

KARACHI: The ill-planned expansion of residential localities in Karachi without the provision of basic facilities of water, electricity and gas has contributed to ethnic polarisation, which has resulted in hundreds of deaths, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said. 

Migration of the Pakhtun from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in recent years has ignited a turf war and land grabbing, which has sent rents soaring and made it difficult for the poor to afford housing, says the HRCP fact-finding mission’s report released last week.

“It seems that the problems inherent in Karachi’s urban growth and expansion as an industrial and commercial mega city have not been tackled imaginatively or even properly appreciated,” it said.

“Overpopulation, uneven and poorly implemented development and turf wars have compounded the law and order problems.”

Politics has started to affect even development projects like the Lyari Expressway, which was supposed to be completed a few years back.

“One party supports the completion of the Lyari Expressway while another opposes it, not for technical reasons, but for fact that if the surviving trans-Lyari settlements are removed one party loses a large number of votes in two constituencies,” the report says.

Weakness of state institutions, including the police, has allowed the criminals associated with political parties to assert themselves forcefully.

They openly receive extortion money from shopkeepers and small businessmen who in some cases have to satisfy different parties just to keep their business running, the report adds. Political parties are even forcing real estate agents to let people from certain ethnic groups have first right of refusal on property up for sale in new residential schemes, the HRCP’s fact-finding team observed.

“The new settlements created through this process are ethnic in nature and are protected by the ethnic parties. Estate agents who ignore the demand are threatened and a few of them have been killed.”

Ghettoisation of large parts of the city has added to the problem. “Watchdogs have been serving the interest of commercial builders and developers. Low-cost housing has not been promoted, even though the greater part of the population increase in the city is of the poor.”

The report says that the most disturbing aspect of violence in Karachi is that common people have started to distrust each other because of difference of language. Not just that but the Pakthun and Mohajirs are offering prayers in different mosques.

The HRCP has recommended sweeping police reforms and greater administrative control to check the violence. “Karachi must be purged of all weapons, both licenced and otherwise, especially because political parties are known to have facilitated plenty of weapons licences for their activists and supporters.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2011.


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