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PAKISTAN: City government forces eviction leaving thousands homeless and without food in Karachi

On January 2, 2006, several police officers and Karachi City Government officials renewed demolitions to make way for the Lyari Expressway Project. Until January 11, several communities lying adjacent to each other in parts of the Rehmatya Colony endured the continuous demolition of over 2,000 homes. The destruction was at times brutal as screaming men, women and children watched bulldozers rip apart their homes. Police and city officials were reportedly laughing and abusing the victims while they ran to salvage whatever could be saved from the rubble. They were also armed with tear gas, batons and used force to ensure that no objections or protests would occur.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

25 January 2006

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HA-01-2006: PAKISTAN: City government forces eviction leaving thousands homeless and without food in Karachi

PAKISTAN: Right to housing; right to life; abject poverty; religious discrimination
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the forced eviction of thousands of households in Rehmatya colony by Karachi City Government officials. The colony, which also houses one Hindu community, was destroyed without warning to make way for the construction of the Lyari Expressway. Only a small number of families have received compensation and the majority are now living on the streets without food, shelter, heat or water. Additionally, at least two Hindu temples were also demolished by the local administration.

The AHRC urges you to condemn the actions of the city government and appeal that immediate and appropriate compensation, relocation and rehabilitation be provided to the victims. The building of the expressway not only renders thousands of people homeless and without food, but also points to the discrimination that exists against religious minorities in the country. Finally, the demolitions also go against the city administrations previous commitment to provide 15 days notice and compensation to the victims before any action is taken.

Urgent Appeals Desk - Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

Location: Communities lying adjacent to each other in Rehmatya Colony (Blocks 13 D/1, D/11 and D/111 Gulshan Iqbal, Prem Nagar Gulshan Iqbal), Karachi, Pakistan?
Persons affected: Over 2,000 families who were evicted from the Rehmatya colony, including at least 400 from Block 13 d/1 Gulshan Iqbal near Sir Suleman Shah Road, and 250 from Prem Nagar. The victims also include:
1. Meeran (5), from the Hindu community Prem Nagar, who died when a wall collapsed on her during the demolition of her home.
2. Ms. Ratni (30), from Pren Naar Gulshan Iqbal, miscarried during the demolition.
3. Ms. Rukma was severely injured during the demolition and is now in critical condition.
4. Chandani (2) was also injured during the eviction process.

On January 2, 2006, several police officers and Karachi City Government officials renewed demolitions to make way for the Lyari Expressway Project. Until January 11, several communities lying adjacent to each other in parts of the Rehmatya Colony endured the continuous demolition of over 2,000 homes. The destruction was at times brutal as screaming men, women and children watched bulldozers rip apart their homes. Police and city officials were reportedly laughing and abusing the victims while they ran to salvage whatever could be saved from the rubble. They were also armed with tear gas, batons and used force to ensure that no objections or protests would occur.

The forced evictions have had devastating effects on the victims. Most now live on the streets and are sleeping under open skies, with no access to shelter, food, water or medical assistance. Several NGOs and activists have donated some food but a consistent supply is unavailable. Moreover, with only small fires to provide heat, many of the victims are sleeping in freezing temperatures. Immediate assistance to address the suffering and lack of food, shelter and heat has not been granted by city officials.

As of yet, relatively no compensation or rehabilitation has been provided to the victims, which is a clear violation of previous mandates set by the city government. In a letter to the UN commission on housing rights written by the previous city district government, the local administration assured the UN agency that they would not proceed with the demolition of houses unless a 15 day notice and appropriate compensation was given to the victims. In 2003, it was decided that compensation would include one plot of 80 sq. yards, and Rs. 50,000 per family. Furthermore, on October 14, 2003 the High Court of Sindh directed the National Highway Authority (NHA), Government of Sindh and the City District Government of Karachi to review the design of the Lyari Expressway so as to minimize the number of people to be affected by this project. Instead however, only 400 houses have received compensation (about 30 percent of the Muslim community) which is being allocated per housing unit, not family. Compensation has also been hindered by land grabbing and the issuance of plots in fake names.

The violence involved in the demolition has also resulted in the deaths and injuries of several people. As a result, Ms. Ratni (30) miscarried after being mishandled by the police. The rest of the harmed victims were from the Hindu community of Prem Nager. These victims include five year-old Meeran, who died when a wall collapsed on her, Ms. Rikma who suffered seriously injuries and had blood in her mouth for two days when a wall also collapsed on her, and two-year old Chandni who fractured a bone. The eviction in this Hindu neighborhood was particularly disturbing because all 250 houses in the area were demolished. Police officers also used tear gas shells and batons to charge past the women and children. The Hindu community was also singled out when two temples were destroyed. The land the temples were on was then given to the son of Allah Wasayoo as compensation (survey no. 739). No Hindus have been compensated for the loss of their homes. Finally, when the victims voiced their grievances over the destruction, city officials responded when the victims protested, “Go to India and fight for the rights of Hindus over there?

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Controversy has surrounded the Lyari Expressway Project since it first began in 2002. The expressway, which will be 16 kilometers long and is expected to bring in Rs. 400 million of revenue, was originally proposed to alleviate several problems including the erosion of the Lyari riverbeds and traffic congestion in the area. However, opponents maintain that the development of the road will not only displace thousands of people and affect 50 communities but also only add to the traffic and congestion problems in the city. Additionally, it is expected that up to 100,000 children will be deprived of education as several schools will also be demolished. Since the demolitions by the Karachi City Government began, surveys report approximately 10,000 houses and 3,100 commercial buildings have been destroyed. No compensation or alternative land was given to the commercial units. Most city planners do believe that the money from the project would be better utilized to reinforce the riverbed, improve the existing Karachi road network and complete the missing road links.??

The city’s actions have also been met with regular protests by the victims as well as social activists. As a result, violence and intimidation by city officials and police officers has often ensued. On September 23, 2005, residents from Zia-ul-Haq Colony, Gulshan-e-Iqbal staged a protest against the city government. The protest was peaceful, however the police responded by shooting into the crowd, which then became enraged. The police then fired tear gas and arrested nine people on charges of breaking the law and order. Salahuddin, a human rights defender, was shot in the abdomen. Another activist, Baseer Naveed, and his family have also been repeatedly threatened by authorities. Baseer’s son was murdered in November 2004 because of his campaigning against the expressway construction. (Please see UA-129-2005 for a detailed account)

Despite the violence, protests against the Lyari Expressway Project continue twice a week, and include sit-ins outside the governor’s house, press clubs and city government offices. The first protest targeted against the newly elected city councilors was held on January 19, 2006.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to city officials condemning the demolitions, discrimination and violence that have occurred in the construction of the Lyari Expressway. The Karachi City Government must be held completely responsible for the welfare of the people who have been made homeless and, compensation and rehabilitation must be provided to the victims. Additionally, the victims who have now lost their homes should be provided with sufficient water, food, heat and adequate temporary housing immediately.

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Dear ____________

RE: PAKISTAN: City government forces eviction leaving thousands homeless and without food in Karachi

Location: Communities lying adjacent to each other in Rehmatya Colony (Blocks 13 D/1, D/11 and D/111 Gulshan Iqbal, Prem Nagar Gulshan Iqbal), Karachi, Pakistan?
Persons affected: Over 2,000 families who were evicted from the Rehmatya colony, including at least 400 from Block 13 d/1 Gulshan Iqbal near Sir Suleman Shah Road, and 250 from Prem Nagar. The victims also include:
1. Meeran (5), from the Hindu community Prem Nagar, who died when a wall collapsed on her during the demolition of her home.
2. Ms. Ratni (30), from Pren Naar Gulshan Iqbal, miscarried during the demolition.
3. Ms. Rukma was severely injured during the demolition and is now in critical condition.
4. Chandani (2) was also injured during the eviction process.


It has come to my recent attention that officials from the Karachi City Government forcibly evicted thousands of people and destroyed over 2,000 homes in parts of the Rehmatya Colony in order to make way for the construction of the Lyari Expressway. The project, which began in 2002, has to date destroyed over 10,000 housing units and 3,100 commercial units. The renewed efforts began on January 2, 2006 where over 400 houses from the Muslim community and all 250 houses and two temples from the Hindu community were destroyed in ten days. No notice or compensation was given to any of the victims when the demolitions occurred. As a result, the majority of the homeless victims now live on the street with no shelter, food, water or heat in the extreme cold conditions. The government has provided no amenities and the food that has been received was donated by local charities and NGO’s, but supplies are dwindling.

I would like to remind you that the demolition procedures are in complete violation of previous commitments made by the city government. In a letter to the UN commission on housing rights written by the previous city district government, the local administration assured the UN agency that they would not proceed with the demolition of houses unless a 15 day notice and appropriate compensation was given to the victims. Additionally, in October 14, 2003 the High Court of Sindh directed the National Highway Authority (NHA), Government of Sindh and the City District Government of Karachi to review the design of the Lyari Expressway so as to minimize the number of people to be affected by this project. Instead however, only 400 houses have received some compensation and the local administration has completely ignored the court order. Compensation has also been hindered by land grabbing and the issuance of plots in fake names.

I was also informed that the evictions which occurred in early January were also extremely violent at times, and have resulted in the deaths and injuries of several people. Ms. Ratni (30) miscarried after being mishandled by the police. The rest of the harmed victims were from the Hindu community of Prem Nager. These victims include five year-old Meeran, who died when a wall collapsed on her, Ms. Rikma who suffered seriously injuries and had blood in her mouth for two days when a wall also collapsed on her, and two-year old Chandni who fractured a bone. The eviction in this Hindu neighborhood was particularly disturbing because all 250 houses in the area were demolished. Violence and threats against activists and other protestors have also occurred on several occasions.

It is appalling that in the name of development, the city government has destroyed the homes and livelihoods of thousands of people, without providing any notice, compensation or alternative land to the victims. The project is estimated to affect more than 50 communities and over 300,000 are in jeopardy of becoming homeless, although the city government is not deterred by the number of lives being destroyed. It is even more disturbing to know that city officials have acted violently and callously towards all the victims, and even more poorly towards the Hindu minorities who live in the affected areas.

I urge you to seriously consider the devastation that is occurring as a result of the Lyari Expressway Project and take appropriate action to address the following concerns. Firstly, all victims who have now lost their homes or have been injured must immediately be provided with sufficient water, food, heat, medical assistance and adequate temporary housing. The local administration must also ensure that compensation and rehabilitation be provided to all victims, regardless of religious affiliation, so that they may rebuild their homes and livelihoods. Criminal action must also be taken against those who have violated or injured the victims or protestors during the demolition operations. Finally, I recommend that the Karachi City Government review the remaining stages of the Project in attempts to find a peaceful and least destructive way to settle the matter with the affected people.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Syed Mustafa Kamal
City Mayor
Karachi City District Government
Karachi
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 923 2406

2. Mr. Altaf Hussain
Quaid-e Tehreek
Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM)
MQM International Secretariat
54-58, First Floor, Elizabeth House, High Street
Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 7EJ
UNITED KINGDOM
Tel: +44 20 8905 7300
Fax: +44 20 8952 9282
Email: mqm@mqm.org

PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

1. General Pervez Musharraf
President
Pakistan Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
Email: CE@pak.gov.pk?lt;/font>

2. Mrs. Saira Karim
Joint Secretary for Law, Justice and Human Rights
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 51 920 2819
Fax: + 92 51 920 3119

3. Mr. Ishrat-ul- Ibad Khan
Governor
Government of Sindh
Governor House Karachi
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 21 920 1201
Email: governor@governorsindh.gov.pk

4. Mr. Miloon Kothari
UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
Att: Ms. Cecilia Moller
Room 4-066/010
UNOG-OHCHR, CH-1211, Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9265
Fax: +41 22 917 9010

5. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, OHCHR, Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 917 9010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme - Hunger Alert

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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