PAKISTAN: Military officers dislocate centuries-old fishing communities


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-143-2008
ISSUES: Land rights, Poverty & adequate standard of living, Torture,

[NOTICE: The AHRC has developed this automatic letter-sending system using the “button” below. However, in this appeal, we could not include e-mail addresses of some of the Pakistan authorities. We encourage you to send your appeal letters via fax or post to those people. Fax numbers and postal addresses of the Pakistan authorities are attached below with this appeal. Thank you.]

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that officers of a military residential area, the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), have stopped the local inhabitants from fishing in the areas close to the DHA, burned the boats, fishing nets, and their cycles, the only source of communication for fishermen, and barred them from using their ancestral jetty, in the name of beautification of the military residential area. The Sindh provincial government remains silent spectators.


According to the information received, the military officers of the DHA are not even allowing the inhabitants of the area to fish, claiming that the DHA holds the rights on the nearby sea as well. One old village was surrounded by military officials and the water and natural gas supplies were disconnected in March 2008 in an attempt to dislodge the 1,500 inhabitants. Through the illegal and totally unacceptable actions of the army officers some 2,000 fisher folks are under direct threat of hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

The Defence Housing Authority, an elitist residential section of military personnel in Karachi has prohibited fishing at Gizri creeks, a centuries-old fishing area, and to demonstrate the army’s strength the officers have burned several boats, arrested many people who they have kept in illegal detention centres at the DHA and severely tortured them. The fisher folk are not allowed to anchor their boats at the Gizri creek but more than 500 meters away from the creek.

The DHA authorities are patrolling the usual fishing locations and where ever they find persons fishing they attack and beat them. The fishermen moved to the Jamia Mosque in the premises of Gizri but the DHA also forced them to move from that area. From Jamia mosque they were forced to migrate to area close to Marina Club, an army officers club for recreation, and reclaimed area in the sea. From that location they were forced to leave for Gutter Bageecho. Since then the fishermen and their families have been harassed and threatened in an attempt to make them their village and sell their houses at low prices.

To date, the DHA has never entered into dialogue with the fishing community or its organization, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and claims that since it holds the rights to the land it also has the rights to prevent people from fishing in the adjacent sea and area around the defense housing area. On June 10, 2005, the DHA issued a notification that fishing would not be allowed in the night after 6pm and they wanted to enforce it but fisher folk resisted. In retaliation the DHA illegally arrested fishermen and tortured them in an illegal detention centre. The town Nazim (head of the town council) of Saddar, Karachi, is assisting the DHA officers by allowing them to extend their territories to other areas which are outside the DHA boundaries.

If the government does not take any action to rehabilitate the fisher folks in their ancestral villages and jetty more than 2000 persons will die due to hunger and loss of livelihood.


The Defence housing authority was formed in 1980 by the military dictator, General Zia ul Haq. Prior to this the DHA was a Defence housing society under the Sindh provincial government and residential land was acquired at throw away prices in the early 1970s, which incidentally have not yet been paid by the military. General Zia transferred the society into an Authority by a simple ordinance and made it a supra constitutional body, which does not come under the constitution of the Pakistan. No civil law can be applied on the DHA. After becoming a supra constitutional body in the name of security of the country the DHA has started reclaiming the land all around its territories. It has acquired vast area of the sea by landfills thereby destroying several centuries old fishing villages. The army has built recreation clubs, golf clubs, hotels, and commercialized the areas reclaimed. The fishermen have been left with nothing and deprived of their basic right to life and livelihood. The DHA has even bulldozed their graveyards and built commercial structures on them. At present the fishermen have to hire the bus at the cost of Rs. 3,000 (USD 44) to take the bodies of deceased relatives to the nearest graveyard. For that, they get financial help from different trusts and welfare organizations. All this was done to create an atmosphere which could render them helpless, hopeless and compel them to flee their centuries old villages and vacate the land for further construction of palaces for military elite and other rich people.

Please write a letter to the government and concerned authorities urging them to stop the DHA to demolish old jetties of fishing and dislodging fisher folks from their villages.

Please be informed that the AHRC has also written a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and Right to Food calling for intervention in this matter.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ________,

PAKISTAN: Military officers dislocate centuries-old fishing communities

Name of victims; Villagers of the Machhi Mayan village, Old Gizri, Defence Housing Authority,
Karachi, Sindh province-Pakistan
Names of alleged perpetrators: 
1. Brigadier Kamran Aziz, Administrator of Defence Housing Authorities,
DHA Phase 1, Karachi-Pakistan
2. Mr. Mohammad Dilawer Khan, Nazim, Saddar Town, New Chali, Karachi, Pkistan?

I am writing to you after learning about the malpractices of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) against the fisher folk community of Karachi who have been residing there for centuries and sustaining their livelihood through fishing. I am very much shocked to know that the DHA is expanding its own prescribed boundaries through the practices of land grabbing and violating all the laws of the land and threatening the lives of poor and marginalized fishing community through militaristic methods.

The case of old villagers fishing community is that Defence housing authority, an elitist residential area of the military personals in Karachi, Sindh province, has prohibited fishing at Gizri creeks, a century old creek for fishing, and to show army’s strength the officers have burned several boats, arrested many and kept in illegal detention centres at DHA and severely tortured them. The fisher folk are not allowed to anchor their boats at the Gizri creek but have to moor them 500 meters away from the creek. The fisher folk have been residing in the nearby village, Machhi Mayan, since 18th century, and are being harassed by the military officers of the DHA to vacate their village by suspending water and gas connections of the village.

I wish to inquire as to how the authorities of a housing society have the authority to stop their free movement and their free choice for their livelihood under the civil laws. The fishermen are a very poor and marginalized community and are being dealt with by military officers as if they are enemies.

I therefore request your intervention in this matter and allow the people of the area to have their fishing rights at the centuries old places. Please also probe in to the cases of torture, illegal arrests and burning of boats and cycles by the officers of DHA and bring them before the law through the constitutional process. The grabbing of areas of land and sea through illegal methods also needs to be probed.

Yours sincerely,


1. General Pervez Musharraf
President’s Secretariat
Fax: +92 51 922 1422, 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
E-mail: (please see->

2. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
Prime minister of Pakistan
Prime Minister House, Islamabad,
Fax: 92-51-9221596
Tel: +92-51-9206111

3. Mr. Farooq Naik
Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights
S Block Pakistan Secretariat
Fax: +92 51 920 2628

4. Rehman Malik 
Advisor on Minister of Interior
Room No. 404, 4th Floor, R Block,
Pak Secretariat
Fax: +92 51 9202624
Tel: +92 51 9212026

5. Chief Justice of Sindh High Court
High Court Building
Fax: +92 21 9213220

6. Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad Khan 
Governor of Sindh province
Fax: +92 21 920 5043
Tel: +92 21 920 1201

7. Syed Qaim Ali Shah
Chief Minister House
Fax: +92 21 920 2000

8. Chief Secretary
Government of Sindh
Chief Secretariat, 
Karachi, Sindh province, 
Fax: +92 21 9211946
Tel: +92 21 921950

9. Secretary 
(Criminal Prosecution) SGA &CD Department
Government of Sindh 
Sindh Secretariat,
Karachi, Sindh Province 
Fax: +92 21 9213873
Tel: +92 21 9213327-6

10. Registrar 
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Supreme Court Building 
Fax: +92 51 9213452
Tel: +92 51 9213770

11. Mr. Zahid Ali Bhurgari
Minister for fisheries
Government of Sindh
Pakistan secretariat, Barrack no 51,
Tel: +92 21 9203651
Fax: +92 21 9203652

12. Ms. Nadia Gabol
Minister for Human Rights
Government of Sindh,
Pakistan secretariat, Barrack 92,
Tel: +92 21 9207043
Fax: +92 21 9207044

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-143-2008
Countries : Pakistan,
Campaigns : Protect Fisherfolks - Stop the Killings and Land Grabbing
Issues : Land rights, Poverty & adequate standard of living, Torture,