KARACHI: It took the encroachers just two days to reclaim their occupied territory in Water Pump, Gulberg, on Saturday after the anti-encroachment operation conducted by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC).
The KMC’s anti-encroachment department had removed hundreds of kiosks, pushcarts, roadside cabins, shops and other obstacles during an operation in main Water Pump market and adjoining areas on Thursday. By the eve of Saturday, however, all the encroachers were back to their businesses. According to anti-encroachment department senior director Mazhar Khan, the action was taken on complaints received by the department regarding establishment of encroachments in the area, which resulted in regular traffic jams and inconvenience for the people.
“All such encroachments on main roads and pavements, which were creating hurdles in the smooth flow of traffic and became troublesome for citizens, have been removed,” he had claimed on Thursday. However, all carts selling fruits and vegetables were back in the area by Saturday, clogging the roads as usual.
A hide-and-seek game starts every day in the evening between the police and the encroachers. “When they come, we remove our carts and when they go, we set them up again,” said Noor Muhammad, a shopkeeper of Noor Dry Fruits and Provision at main Water Pump Market. He referred to the KMC officials as those who ‘come daily in their big prestigious cars’. “The moment they enter the market, we all rush outside, dragging our carts and hiding ourselves in every nook and cranny of the market,” he said.
A vegetable vendor in the market, Muhammad Asghar, told The Express Tribune that when these police officials come, they insult them and force them to leave the place. “It is a game of just half-an-hour. God knows why they come to disturb us,” he said.
Pinning the blame
The operation was also supervised by the additional Central district commissioner, Shujaat Ali, and Gulberg Central assistant commissioner Sumera Hussain. They put all the blame of the operation’s failure in the area on KMC.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Hussain said that the main market in Water Pump was cleared of the permanent fixtures and it was not possible for them to conduct an operation in the area every day. “We coordinate with the police and conduct such operations with their assistance,” she said. “If the encroachers are coming back, it is the responsibility of the KMC’s anti encroachment department to deal with them.” According to her, the main issue in the area is that of parking.
Similarly, Ali maintained that his job was only to facilitate other departments. “Primarily, it is the duty of the KMC’s land department inspectors to monitor if the removed encroachments are coming back.”
Meanwhile, the senior director of the anti-encroachment department claimed that their drive is in full swing. “We keep demolishing the encroachments but sometimes it becomes difficult to monitor the removed encroachments,” he said, adding that he had been busy demolishing the wedding halls and had therefore been unable to keep a check on the main water Pump area.
However, he said that it is the responsibility of Central SSP Muqadar Haider to deploy a police constable in the area to ensure that the area is not encroached upon again. Haider was not available for his comment despite repeated calls.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2015.