On March 21, 2019, the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a ruling accepted offer by the Bahria Town (Pvt) Limited to settle a case pertaining to their project Bahria Town Karachi at M-9 Motorway, in lieu of payment of Rs 460 billion in seven years. In the ruling, the court had stopped investigating agencies to file any reference against persons, including government officials, affiliated with Bahria Town. “No reference can be filed without the court’s permission,” the order said while giving some sort of legitimacy to the mega development scheme.
However after more than two years on May 21, 2021, Indigenous Rights Alliance of some nationalist leaders together with local politicians and rural activist in a joint resolution, declared Bahria Town Karachi an “illegal and unconstitutional” and “a modern form of colonization”, calling for the land to be returned to its original status.
The Indigenous Rights Alliance
The Alliance also called for the affectees of Bahria Town Karachi whose homes and villages had been destroyed to be compensated as per the market rate. They also raised questions why 16800 acres of land is not being demarcated or measured so that it could clear the limitation of Bahria Town. The Alliance had mainly announced a sit-in on June 6 at the main gate of Bahria Town Karachi, which turned out to be a highly sad day in the history of Karachi.
Bahria Town administration was already facing resistance from the residents of the lands in Gadap and Kathore who were not ready to surrender what they claim to be “their ancestral lands”. Violence and disruption of law and order was also being reporting since few weeks. A man had also sustained bullet wounds when armed guards of the Bahria Town’s private security firm had opened fire at villagers in Kathore.
The Violent Protest
But on the June 6, hundreds of protesters allegedly attacked Bahria Town Karachi and set fire to its main gate as well as several shops and vehicles in the housing society. Footage appearing on social media showed the main gate of Bahria Town in flames while smoke was emitting from various other buildings. A heavy contingent of police was on the spot to deal with any untoward situation, while the Bahria Town management sealed the entrance with containers. But the protesters breached the barricaded gate after torching it fired and entered the housing society. Protesters not only damaged the properties inside the housing scheme, but also looted ATMs, burnt vehicles and kept the Superhighway blocked for hours.
The Anticipated Stances
Later the Sindh Indigenous Rights Alliance which was formed in 2015 in reaction to the Bahria Town land acquisition, distanced itself away from that violence by stating that they had “nothing to do with the violence in Bahria Town.” But it’s too little and too late. As the motive of the protest was an open secret, as the violent protesters were chanting slogans not only against Bahria Town Karachi, but also other gated community housing schemes and developments in the area.
On the other hand in a handout on social media, the Bahria Town Dealers and Builders Association states “we will not let Bahria Town property market to go crash.” But as a matter of fact the dead has been done.
What’ Next for . . . . .
The violence raises many questions to raise. What led the protesters to defy the orders of top court regarding Bahria Town Karaachi? The Sindh Action Committee is going to protest in all districts of Sindh on June 27. Will it revert back its decision? The real estate values not only in Bahria Town Karachi but also in the district of Malir have dropped. Will and when they get stable again?
Needless to say in this entire episode the role of Sindh government is seriously questionable. Will it order any inquiry of that violent episode?