KARACHI: The popular Defence Housing Authority Sunday Bazaar is no more. You will no longer find that corner of the city bustling with activity on otherwise sleepy Sundays.
Perhaps the biggest loss was incurred by the stall owners and operators who lost their livelihoods almost overnight. The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) almost sneakily demolished the premises in the early hours of Monday morning.
The site in DHA Phase VIII, which was earlier protected by a proper fenced boundary, now wears the look of a warzone. The iron pillars that once supported fibre roofs have been bent towards the ground.
The inventories, left behind by shopkeepers for the next week, lie buried under the rubble. “Had we been informed earlier, we could have saved our belongings,” said a shopkeeper, Asif, who claimed to have lost Rs100,000 due to the demolition. “When I closed my shop on Sunday night, I had no idea it would no longer exist the next morning.”
The shopkeepers had known the contract between the Sunday Bazaar administration and the DHA had expired. They had been told, however, that the market will continue to function until they found a new site.
No one, not even the market’s administration perhaps, had been notified before the shops were leveled to the ground. “It was all done very secretively,” said Asif sadly. “The DHA did not let anyone know, not even the media.” He added that a few shopkeepers were present at the site and tried to protest but were detained by the DHA’s security force. When they tried to contact the authority’s offices, they were denied access. “Nobody will speak to you until 72 hours,” he said, quoting an unidentified official.
A no-go area?
Not only did the DHA officials refuse to speak to the stall owners, they even barred them from approaching the demolished market, said Asif, adding that the shopkeepers should have been allowed to gather what was left of their belongings at the very least.
“The DHA security guards stopped us at the head of the road that leads to Sunday Bazaar from Khayaban-e-Ittehad,” he claimed. The guards stationed at this road are asking for identification to ensure no shopkeepers are let through, according to Asif.
Another shopkeeper, Waseem, who operated a stall at the market for years, had the same complaints. “The guards pointed their guns at us as if we were terrorists,” he said angrily.
The shopkeepers’ claims were not unfounded. When The Express Tribune attempted to visit the site, the guards simply refused entry. “No one is allowed here,” said a guard. “It’s the DHA’s orders.” Despite repeated attempts, the guard remained unmoved. “This is not Mach Jail. This is DHA,” he said, in an apparent reference to the stay on Saulat Mirza’s execution orders. “Once the order is passed, it is absolute.”
For his part, the DHA spokesperson Major Aurangzeb denied all the claims. “The agreement with the Sunday Bazaar administration expired on December 31, 2014,” he said. “Despite this, the authority gave them ample time to evacuate the premises.”
The administration was notified several times, he said, but did not pay heed. “If there were any losses to the shopkeepers, the contractor is responsible.”
The spokesperson added that the site was private property and the DHA was being pressurised for some time by the plot owners who wanted to start construction.
In response to a question regarding the denial of access to the market for shopkeepers and media, he said: “No one has been barred.”
Contractor goes missing
The Sunday Bazaar, since its inception and transfer from Delhi Colony to Phase VIII, has operated under various contractors. At present, a group of businessmen – Haji Farooq, Rana Waseem and others – shared administrative powers. They, however, could not be contacted for their version despite several attempts.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2015.