The putrid odour of decay and cow dung permeates the air. The buzzing of flies, blaring of horns and mooing of cows resonates in the area. This is the environment in which the residents of Gulshan-e-Iqbal’s blocks nine and 19 have lived for over 20 years.
Housing almost a thousand bovine inhabitants from Punjab, the animals are reared year-round, only to be sold on Eidul Azha.
The illegal cow markets have encroached upon land belonging to the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) and K-Electric (KE), under whose extra high tension (EHT) lines the animals reside. KWSB’s conduit and main lines run beneath the encroached upon area.
When monsoon rolls in, the animals are shepherded onto the main streets, disrupting traffic and leaving behind trails of excrement.
“We are unable to even move our vehicles,” lamented a KE driver, Noor Muhammad, who added that despite all the troubles KE and the residents face, no one challenges the encroachers, as they are backed by a political mafia.
The KE spokesperson, Usama Qureshi, told The Express Tribune that they have written several times to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) against the encroachments.
Zainuddin, the manager of KE’s area office, said that living beneath the 132KV EHT lines could cause cancer. “These lines emit radiation, which is very harmful, not only for the people who have lived beneath them for years, but also for the animals,” he said.
According a resident, Hayyat, several complaints have been lodged against the encroachers but no action was taken. “The encroachers are so powerful that despite the presence of the police check-post in front of the cow den, no one dares to touch them,” he claimed.
Twelve years ago, when the authorities did take action against the encroachers, the police station and the homes of the residents who lodged complaints were pelted with stones.
Once again, taking matters into their own hands, the residents of block 19 have barricaded the area. A resident told The Express Tribune that they had been left with no choice but to barricade their streets to bar the animals from entering. “No law enforcement agency has asked us to remove these barriers as yet,” he stated.
Rustam, an encroacher who owns around 70 cows, settled in the area 20 years ago when he moved from Thatta. He claimed that their market is bigger than that of Sohrab Goth and that no authority in Karachi could make them move. “Our feudal lord is behind us. He has assured us that no one can touch us here,” he said. Rustam claimed that one call from their political party, the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, is enough to release any of their men arrested by the police.
When the sub-inspector deployed at the Shanti Nagar police check-post, Shabbir Kharl, was asked why action has not been taken, he claimed it was out of his hands. The DSP of the Aziz Bhatti police station, Nazim Zaidi, said that he was not aware of any encroachment in the area. “If the residents are facing any problems they should contact us,” he said.
According to the deputy commissioner East, Agha Pervaiz, KWSB and KE should write to them if their land has been encroached upon. KMC’s anti-encroachment director, Mazhar Khan, came out with similar remarks, denying the existence of any past communication.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2015.