By Sohail Sangi
Bahria Town accused of forcibly occupying lands of 25 villages
- Bahria Town expanding over 45,000 acres
- Courts should hear locals
- Occupying purple area: Dad Karim Baloch
- Media Persons complain
- Bilawal Bhutto’s reaction
- New petition in SHC
- Affected persons organization
- Reaction on social media
- Silence of Media and political parties questioned
- Past cases in the courts
The residents of Karachi’s old villages alleged the real estate giant Bahria Town for forcefully attempting to occupy land of old settlement (goths) in Malir district rendering local residents of the metropolitan’s rural areas homeless.
The complained to the visiting team of media persons and civil rights activists, who visited the Kathore villages following the complaints of villagers about recent round of Bahria Town administration to occupy more lands.
Murad Bux Gabol resident of village Noor Muhammad Gabol three days ago, Bahria Town officials, led by a retired captain, attacked Noor Muhammad Gabol village and with a bulldozer and also tried to enter Abdullah Gabol village. The villagers offered strong resistance.
The officials of Bahria Town tried to enter the three villages including Noor Muhammad Gabol and Darya Khan Gabol and as a result of the clash half a dozen villagers were injured.
Equipped with excavators and bulldozers, they attempted to occupy and take over land that belongs to the residents of this village.
Murad Bux’s father Faiz Muhammad Gabol also fought for the rights of villagers. Murad Bux called the Bahria Town administration as land grabber and said, they say they will pass drainage or water supply line or road through their village. How they can? We are settled here since more than a century. Only Bahria administration has right and we have no rights? Murad asked.
Bahria Town being expanded over 45,000 acress: Gul Hassan Kalmati
Gul Hassan Kalmati, author of several books on the history of Karachi and an active member of the Indigenous Rights Alliance, happens to be resident of the area said Bahria Town has now moving towards Kathore, where they wanted to build farmhouses and occupy more lands.
“On one side the Defense Housing Authority City is moving forward, on the other hand, there is Bahria Town, which has brought the local population into a quandary.”
According to Gul Hassan Kalmati, it is land government and the government terminated the lease of locals and handed over the land to the Malir Development Authority, which handed over the land to Bahria Town a few years ago.
Gul Hassan says that the Supreme Court had made it clear in the Bahria Housing case that they would not go beyond 16,800 acres, but the Sindh government did not make it clear demarcation and total how much the land was.
Gul Hassan Kalmati claims that Bahria Town is currently being expanded and housing is being spread over 45,000 acres in Kathore Karachi.
Kalmati told the Outcome that in all 24 villages were directly affected. Of them 22 were inside the area, which the Bahria Town has occupied or trying to occupy, while 20 villages lost their lands, grazing areas and connectivity with the outer world.
The residents of two villages vacated due to different reasons.
The affected villages list includes Khirthar Gabol, Hadi Bux Gabol. Abdullah Gabol, Ali Dad Gabol, Ai Muhammad Gabol, Ali Nawaz Burfat, Saleh Muhammad Jokio, Lal Bux Kachhelo,Noor Muhammad Gabol and Jumo Kachhelo.
According to Gul Hassan Kalmati, there are three old chowkdandi type graveyards in the area.
Bahria Town has also acquired land in four villages of Jamshoro district. We ask the government to demarcate the land allotted by the court to find out how much the land is. At the moment, they are taking advantage of the court’s order and telling everyone that they were given land on the court’s order. The court has declared only 16,800 acres as legal, while they have occupied to 45,000.
Courts should hear locals: Qadir Bux Kalmati
Qadir Bux Kalmati resident of Noor Muhammad Gabol said that Bahria Town administration did not paid the villagers even promised and agreed amount.
He appealed the courts to hear the villagers before delivering any judgment, as they are the main stakeholders. Let people decide whether they want to retain lands or want to sell it, if so on which price.
Occupying purple area: Dad Karim Baloch
Dad Karim Baloch while sharing a map told media at the site of Darya Khan Gabol that Bahria Town administration is exceeding from the allotted area. He said that as per the map given above, the 16890 acres of land marked yellow is getting settled through the Supreme Court, while the future of remaining area marked in purple will be decided later by the High Court.
Media Persons complain
Media persons complained Sindh government spokesman Murtaza Wahab and Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah were contacted for comment.
The media persons contacted Bahria Town administration and its owner Malik Riaz on the social networking site Twitter to find out Bahria Town’s position and also e-mailed the e-mail address on their website to find out their position. Questions were also sent to the feedback form on the website but no response has been received so far.
Likewise attempts were also made to contact Malir police and district administration but no contact was made.
Bilawal Bhutto’s reaction
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto during a press conference on April 30, 2021, to a question said that he had taken notice of the operations in Bahria Town and directed Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to stop these operations and report to him.
Bilawal Bhutto assured action against those involved and justice should be done to the local people.
Following taking notice by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari elected Malir representative MNA Sardar Dham Abdul Karim Jokio, MPA Salim Baloch, MPA Raja Abdul Razzaq Baloch and former federal minister Abdul Hakim Baloch visited villages visited Hadi Bux Gabol, Darya Khan Gabol and other villages.
New petition in SHC
Murad Bux Gabol, a resident of the affected villages, filed a petition in the Sindh High Court alleging that Bahria Town officials, accompanied by police officers, entered the village with heavy missionaries from April 27 to 29. According to the petition, they wanted to build a road and drainage line for Bahria Town which will pass through the villages.
The petition said that Noor Muhammad Gabol Goth has been inhabited since 1920 and 1922, which currently consists of 100 houses. The village has a population of 700 people, according to whom the Sindh government has also issued a certificate of ownership.
The petition sought to declare the demolition of the village, construction of forcible road and crossing of drainage line as illegal. Open the village roads that have been blocked by the Bahria Foundation.
Sindh High Court has issued notices to all the parties.
Affected persons organization
The victims of Bahria Town and an organization has formed by civil society called the Indigenous Rights Alliance.
Hafeez Baloch, an active member of the organization, claimed that three days ago, Bahria Town officials, led by a retired captain, attacked Noor Muhammad Gabol village and with a bulldozer and also tried to enter Abdullah Gabol village. The villagers offered strong resistance.
Hafeez Baloch told media that the officials of Bahria Town tried to enter the three villages and as a result of the clash half a dozen villagers were injured.
Reaction on social media
When videos of the incidents surfaced on social media, users expressed their outrage and sharply criticized the Bahria Town administration, as well as the Sindh government and the Pakistan People’s Party.
Silence of Media and political parties questioned
National Assembly member Mohsin Dawar raised the question in his tweet that why everyone is silent about Malik Riaz?
“… attacks on Bahria Town village in Sindh are continuing but they are being ignored by the media and political parties.
Awami Workers Party-affiliated social activist and researcher Ammar Rashid also slammed the incidents, saying it was “shameful” for political parties and the media to remain silent.
With the help of the state machinery, local residents are being evacuated to Bahria Town and protesters are being arrested, while the Sindh government has allowed to do so and its supporters are watching in silence.
Ammar Ali Jan added: “This is the democracy of Bahria Town, on their behalf, only for themselves.”
Videos posted on social media showed that there are also a some police vehicles that are allegedly assisting Bahria Town officials, on which social activist Osama Khilji attacked PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto and the Sindh government. Addressing Murtaza Wahab, the spokesman asked, “Why does it seem that Sindh police are working for Bahria Town and helping them to occupy the land?”
Another user, Syed Ali Aqa, also slammed the PPP, commenting that his party had allowed Bahria Town to destroy people’s homes without fear, and that the Sindh government itself It is destroying the homes of the poor even though the court forbade it.
Another user Riaz Ujjan wrote in a tweet to Bilawal Bhutto and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah that you have more flaws but the incident from Bahria Town is a big stain on the PPP.
Another user, Aamir, tweeted a photo of the incident and asked, “Is it Sindh Police or Bahria Police?”
Tariq Chandio writes that for God sake, should think about it away from political affiliation. “The Bahria is not under anyone’s control. These people [locals] have been living in this place for centuries. Even the law of nature recognizes them as the land of the earth.
- Past cases in the courts
- SBCA terms construction unauthorised and illegal
- Bahria Town offers Rs460 billion
- SC bars from allotting land
- NAB investigation
The Supreme Court had ruled in 2019 in an ongoing case against Bahria Town for taking government land at a cheaper price that the owner of Bahria Town, Malik Riaz, would have to pay a fine of Rs 60 billion to the Sindh government.
However, Bahria Town later asked the court to grant them a reprieve due to the corona virus outbreak, but the court rejected their request, saying the government believed the economy was improving and plots in Bahria Housing and the houses are already booked.
Similarly, the Sindh High Court had ruled in favor of Faiz Mohad Gabol, a plaintiff against Bahria Town. However, Gul Hassan Kalmati said that after this decision, Bahria Town allegedly started construction on the site, after which he filed a contempt of court petition and died while seeking justice.
Gul Hassan Kalmati says: “The court decision is enforced by the police who are with the Bahria Town administration. At present, some 50 petitions have been filed, of which 35 have been stayed by the court but the work of the Bahira has not stopped and these petitions are not being heard.
SBCA terms construction unauthorised and illegal
On July 22, 2020, The Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) on informed the Sindh High Court that all the construction activities at Bahria Town were unauthorised and illegal and its “Bahria Greens” project was launched without obtaining a sale and advertisement no-objection certificate from the authority.
Bahria Town offers Rs460 billion
In March 2019, The Supreme Court on Thursday accepted Bahria Town Karachi’s Rs460 billion offer for the lands it occupies in the Malir district of Karachi and restrained the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from filing references against it.
SC bars from allotting land
May 2018: The Supreme Csourt barred Bahria Town from selling or allotting land in the Bahria Town Karachi project after declaring that the allotment of land to the company by the Sindh government and a massive land swap with the Malir Development Authority (MDA) was done illegally.
We are constrained to declare that the grant of the land to the MDA, its exchange with the land of Bahria Town and anything done pursuant thereto being against the provisions of COGLA 1912 [Colonization of Government Lands Act, 1912] and statement of conditions are void ab initio and as such have no existence,” the court ruled.
May 2018: An investigation carried out by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) under the Supreme Court order against Bahria Town Karachi and government officials revealed that thousands of acres of land were usurped with the help of the officials concerned, causing huge losses to the national exchequer.
The investigation team informed the NAB that it had completed the probe and a case was made out on the basis of irrefutable evidence which established that the management of Bahria Town with the connivance of relevant public office holders and officials of the revenue department, Malir district, the Malir Development Authority and the Sindh Building Control Authority had taken illegal possession of thousands of acres of valuable government land situated on the main M9, in violation of Colonisation of Government Land Act 1912, MDA Act 1993 and Sindh Building Control Ordinance 1979.