Last week, a delegation comprising members of ABAD and affectees of court’s demolition orders including residents of Nasla Tower, Gujjar Nullah, Aladdin Park met President Arif Alvi in Karachi and briefed their concerns about the ongoing demolition exercise in the city on the orders of judiciary. Dr Arif Alvi assured the affected people he would raise and communicate their legal concerns in his own way on different forums. However, the world outside Pakistan is already concerned about this human tragedy.
There isn’t any doubt that this demolition drive has now become a human catastrophe causing displacement and dispossession in many folds. The evictions and demolitions, ordered after last year’s devastating rains, may affect up to 12,000 homes housing 96,000 people. According to latest data, more than 66,500 people have already been affected. In Gujjar nullah, 4,900 homes of 50,000 people have been demolished, along with 1,700 homes housing 16,500 people in Orangi nullah. Hundreds of families of Nasla Tower are also under the threat of displacement. Many of the affected homeowners have established tenure through land leases, or were connected to public utilities such as gas, water and electricity.
United Nation Human Rights Experts
That’s why leading international institutions have raised their concerns over the ongoing demolition drive in Karachi and urged Pakistan’ authorities to stop evicting millions of people. The United Nation’ Human Rights experts in an official statement from Geneva state;
“We are extremely concerned that on June 14, the Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed the stay orders issued earlier by the Anti-Encroachment Tribunal, which so far protected some of the homes from demolitions.” The experts also say “In the wake of this decision, there are worrying reports that demolitions are underway again in Gujjar and Orangi nullahs, causing continuing stress and anxiety to residents.”
The statement further reads “These actions were undertaken by city authorities without adequate consultation with the affected residents, no relocation plan, and disparate and insufficient compensation for the displaced.”
The World Bank Stance & Policy
The World Bank initially resisted to respond on the issue, but later comes up by clarifying that the anti-encroachment drive taking place since 2018 was not being done under any World Bank-financed operations in any part of the city. Moreover it states “the current anti-encroachment activities, while not linked to World Bank-financed projects, are a matter of great concern for all. As noted, areas where World Bank-financed activities are taking place are subject to World Bank policy and are required to be free of impacts of the anti-encroachment drive.”
The institution’ Environmental and Social Standard 5 (ESS5) of the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) clearly defies displacement policy and doesn’t “resort to forced eviction”. It also requires that resettlement activities are planned and implemented with appropriate disclosure of information, meaningful consultation, and informed participation of affected persons. According to the eligibility classification in ESS5, affected persons may be persons who: have formal legal rights to land or assets; do not have formal legal rights to land or assets, but have a claim to land or assets that is recognized or recognizable under national law; or, have no recognizable legal right or claim to the land or assets they occupy or use.
Will things get around after these international concerns ? It is to see