The railway authorities launched an anti-encroachment operation on Thursday, amid tight security, razing several houses and commercial structures.
However, the occupants of Afghan basti obtained a cushion period of five days from the divisional bench of Peshawar High Court (PHC), and assured the court they would vacate the land by February 21.
In compliance of the Supreme Court’s decision, the railway authorities in Haripur had served notices to illegal occupants to vacate their illegally built structures by February 15.
However, according to Permanent Way Inspector Imtiaz Ahmed, the encroachers did not remove the structures, forcing the authorities to launch an operation.
The occupants of Afghan basti near Muhalla Railway Station, where over 45 houses have been built, were willing to offer resistance as the operation started. However, due to heavy contingent of police officials, they were only able to use abusive language.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Gulmina Bibi, an Afghan refugee, said she was not prepared to leave her house since the male members of her family were away and there was no one to help her move to a safer place.
Najeebullah, another refugee, criticised the authorities for giving them a short notice to clear the land. He added that the authorities even rejected giving 15-minutes time to shift their belongings.
Farooq Khan accused the railway authorities of discriminating against poor occupants. He claimed that the authorities had deliberately left out several concrete structures.
However, the operation was suspended when the occupants approached the PHC divisional bench and obtained permission to vacate the land by February 21.
Ahmed also confirmed the court’s decision, adding that the operation would be re-launched after five days if the occupants failed to comply with court orders.
He disclosed that nearly seven kanals of commercial land near Central Jail was cleared on the first day of operation, adding that the operation would continue from Baldhair to Havelian Railway Station on Friday (today).
According to informed sources, a total of 152,340 square feet of railways’ land from Haripur to Havelian Railway Station has been illegally occupied by influential persons and despite several warnings, they have not vacated the land.
Local people, however, claim these structures were built in connivance with the authorities, who, they said, remained silent over the issue as they were offered bribes by encroachers.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ