PAKISTAN: More than 140,000 people to be displaced in Karachi by Pakistan Railways and the city government

Pakistan Railways has asked the city district government of Karachi to promptly make arrangements for land to be vacated in approximately a 100-foot radius on both sides of its railway tracks. Pakistan of Karachi have made announcements in about 30 localities to vacate the land that falls within this 100-foot radius. Several newspapers in Pakistan and the Urban Resource Centre estimate that more than 20,000 homes will be demolished by the latest action of Pakistan , resulting in the displacement of more than 140,000 people without any compensation or rehabilitation plan. The people have lived in these communities for 30 to 35 years and have electricity and natural gas connections. Some of them have government titles to the land. Moreover, the president of Pakistan announced in 2004 that shantytowns built since 1985 would become legal communities through the law.

Pakistan Railways has been criticised by local people and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for its perceived intentions to acquire the vacated land for commercial purposes as it has done in the past. For example, there are more than 50 structures which are already inside the 100-foot radius, such as those built by Honda Motors, Karachi Shipyard and Toyota Motors 90 feet inside Pakistan Railways’ fixed radius of 100 feet. In addition, several high-rise buildings of private companies, the warehouses of multinational corporations and concrete and well-constructed structures of the Pakistan air force and army, including a government multistory building, have acquired land 60 feet to 90 feet inside the 100-foot radius allocated by the railway company. In some places, the railway company has allowed commercial structures to be built just five feet from the railway tracks.

Pakistan Railways has not issued any notice or conducted any survey for the demolition of these commercial structures that are inside the 100-foot radius of the railway tracks, reflecting the malicious intentions of the company to merely dislodge poor people and sell the land for commercial purposes.

Human rights organisations in Pakistan are demanding that the railway company should not take more than 30 feet of land on both sides of the railway track as is the practice in many countries even where bullet trains are operational.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the actions of Pakistan Railways and the Karachi city government to demolish about 20,000 houses and displace more than 140,000 people. Their actions will create further housing problems for Karachi as the city’s slums will expand because of this policy.

Eviction is not simply a shifting of people from one place to another place. Rather, it is a matter of people’s social and economic dislocation for several years and maybe even decades. Many men and women will lose their jobs because the location where they are resettled will not afford them any job opportunities, and children will be uprooted from their schools.

The AHRC demands that Pakistan Railways should reduce the area in which construction is prohibited to only a 30-foot radius and that those who will be affected in this zone should be relocated through a proper resettlement plan and compensation should be provided. The present double standards in which poor people are removed and commercial enterprises are welcomed must end.

The Pakistani government should also respect their people’s  right to shelter as provided in Article 24 of the Constitution of Pakistan; and if the government acquires land for its use, the government should provide those displaced with a comparable place to live.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-302-2006
Countries : Pakistan,