Residents despair as Karachi begins razing 'illegal' settlements to prevent urban flooding

Farzana Yousuf leaves her house in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 18, 2021. (AN photo)
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Updated 23 February 2021

Residents despair as Karachi begins razing 'illegal' settlements to prevent urban flooding

  • Thousands of homes being destroyed as Pakistan’s largest city cracks down on constructions that have led to the shrinking of canals that used to relieve Karachi of rainwater
  • Supreme Court cleared the way for evictions after last year’s monsoon rains overwhelmed infrastructure in the city and led to dozens of deaths

KARACHI: Muhammad Adil, a rickshaw driver, built his semi-concrete house on the bank of the Gujjar Nullah canal in Karachi 18 years ago. He says he legally bought the plot and made sure all utilities were paid, but now his family must leave the house as part of the city government’s drive to clear settlements near the port city’s waterways.

Adil is not alone. The homes of thousands of families are being razed as Pakistan’s largest and most densely populated city cracks down on buildings it says were constructed using illegally granted lease agreements that have, over the years, led to the shrinking of canals that would relieve Karachi of rainwater during the monsoons and prevent urban flooding.

The Supreme Court cleared the way for evictions last year after monsoon rains overwhelmed infrastructure in the city of 15 million and led to dozens of deaths.




Heavy machinery clears illegal settlements along the Gujjar Nullah drain in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 18, 2021. (AN photo)

But canal squatters like Adil say they have nowhere to go.

“I purchased a plot with Rs125,000 ($784) which was my life savings. I constructed this house over many years, getting all the utilities legally, but now I’m told it’s illegal,” Adil, a father of five, told Arab News last week.

“They gave us a cheque of Rs90,000 for six months’ [rent] but didn’t give enough time to search for a house.” he added. “My wife has kidney failure, and my son is disabled,” he said, adding that it would take weeks to cash the cheque.

In the 1960s, Karachi had the tallest building in South Asia, an inner-city rail service, vibrant nightlife, and booming tourism. But more than five decades later, the city’s infrastructure has failed to keep pace with a population that has increased more than threefold, leaving it vulnerable to rains during the monsoon season which runs from July through September.




Municipal workers clear illegal settlements along the Gujjar Nullah drain in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 18, 2021. (AN photo)

The city has 41 drains, or nullahs, that would protect it from annual flooding. The largest one is Gujjar Nullah, which starts in the New Karachi area and runs 13 kilometers south to merge near Liaquatabad with the Lyari River before it reaches the Arabian Sea. The other two major drains are the 3.5-kilometer-long Mahmoudabad Nullah and 11-kilometer-long Orangi Nullah.

Bashir Siddiqui, an anti-encroachment director at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, who is spearheading the drive to clear the city’s nullahs, said his department had already cleared 58 concrete houses from the banks of Mahmoudabad Nullah. Authorities, he said, had cleared 3,000 “soft encroachments” from Gujjar Nullah and were now planning to remove 4,000 concrete buildings. The drive will affect at least 4,000 families at Gujjar Nullah alone, according to KMC.

“Karachi is undergoing a change. The city will become beautiful, and this is a gift of the Supreme Court,” Siddiqui said, adding that after Gujjar Nullah, authorities would focus on clearing Orangi Nullah. “A 30-feet road will be constructed on each side [of Guhhar Nullah] and the stream will be converted into a flood water stream,” he said.

Civil activists say the drive is ill-planned and carried out without consulting residents. 




Mateena Iqbal a resident of the New Karachi area, speaks to Arab News in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 18, 2021. (AN photo)

“Those whose houses are being removed were not properly briefed and there are also discrepancies in the counting,” Urban Resource Center director Zahid Farooq told Arab News.

He said authorities had, for example, counted over 300 houses as 75 because they relied on Google Maps which did not accurately mark houses in Karachi’s highly congested neighborhoods.

“We are not against development, but people should be evicted after proper compensation and their settlement in the nearest possible area as per international norms,” Farooq said. “Displacements disturb the social, educational, economic and political life of the residents.”

Residents also say they were not aware of the governments’ plans and many still had not been compensated.

“I had a one-room house, they razed it. Where will we go now?” resident Matina Iqbal said, bursting into tears. “Where will we go, we don’t know.”

Farzana Yousuf, who has been living in New Karachi for the past 40 years, asked the same question: “Where will we go?“

“Where will we make another home? For how long will they give us money for rent?” she said, adding that her breadwinner son earned only Rs2,000 ($13) a week.

“They should throw me in front of the machines,” Yousaf said. “I will not move.”


Challenge accepted: Saudi national cricket team invites Peshawar Zalmi to play in kingdom

Updated 11 April 2021

Challenge accepted: Saudi national cricket team invites Peshawar Zalmi to play in kingdom

  • Peshawar Zalmi owner hinted last week of taking his team to Saudi Arabia for a friendly match
  • Arab News has been selected as the official media partner of the Saudi cricket team

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s national cricket team has accepted the challenge by the Pakistan cricket franchise Peshawar Zalmi inviting them for a friendly game.

The owner of one of Pakistan’s most popular cricket franchises, Peshawar Zalmi, hinted last week of taking his team to Saudi Arabia for a friendly match, soon after news emerged that Arab News had been selected as the official media partner of the Saudi cricket team.

READ MORE

Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s leading English language daily, has been selected by the Saudi cricket federation to be the national team’s official media partner. Read more here.

Javed Afridi’s successful franchise is represented by cricketing legends like former West Indian skipper Daren Sammy, South African star batsman Hashim Amla, and Pakistan all rounders Wahab Riaz and Shoaib Malik, and others from the world’s biggest test playing teams.

“Best wishes to cricket KSA. How about Peshawar Zalmi VS KSA in Saudi,” Afridi wrote on Twitter.

Responding to it the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF) told Arab News: “We thank Afridi for the wonderful gesture, good wishes to the Saudi national cricket team and appreciation. We look forward to a lot of cooperation with all great cricket playing countries, such as Pakistan.

“As far as invitation to play a friendly game is concerned, we accept the challenge and look forward to playing the game at a mutually agreed date and place, here in Saudi Arabia," said Nadeem Nadwi, General Manager, SACF.

SACF, established in 2020, has lined up a series of major programs focused on promoting the game in the Kingdom and things are set to change rapidly.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News last week, SACF chairman Prince Saud Bin Mishal Al-Saud revealed the game-changing plans for cricket, outlining a series of major initiatives that will increase participation at community, club, and international level.

Among those competitions is the National Cricket Championship, played across 11 cities and part of four programs that SACF signed with the Saudi Sports For All Federation. Launched in February 2021, it is to date the largest cricket tournament held in the history of Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, there will be a corporate cricket tournament launched in October and November, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social cricket program introduced in various cities. Throughout the year, SACF is planning to have 20,000 participants taking part in these programs.

The federation has signed several deals and MoUs with governmental, semi-governmental, and non-governmental entities setting out plans to raise awareness of the game, increase cricket facilities nationwide, and introduce the sport to Saudi youth through school programs.


World must recognize Pakistan's commitment to regional stability, says top general

Updated 10 April 2021

World must recognize Pakistan's commitment to regional stability, says top general

  • General Nadeem Raza asks the international community to take notice of rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir
  • Says the nation has high expectations of the country's armed forces while addressing a graduation ceremony at the Pakistan Military Academy

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Nadeem Raza said Saturday the world must recognize Pakistan's consistent peace overtures to its eastern neighbor and take notice of rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir while addressing graduating cadets at the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.
According to an official statement released by the military media wing, ISPR, Raza said his country was committed to peace and had made significant contributions to regional stability.
He also maintained that the whole nation stood united against the menace of extremism and had high expectations of the Pakistani armed forces.
The CJCSC made these observations during his visit to the country's premier military training institution where he reviewed the graduation parade of the 143rd PMA Long Course.
Among those who successfully completed the rigorous training also included young cadets from Iraq, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal.
Raza advised all PMA graduates, including members of the 17th Lady Cadet Course, to keep themselves abreast with latest challenges.
"The only way to meet these challenges is through professional prowess and dedication as the Nation pins high hopes on Armed Forces of Pakistan," the ISPR statement quoted him as saying.


Rizwan steers Pakistan to their highest-winning T20 run chase

Updated 10 April 2021

Rizwan steers Pakistan to their highest-winning T20 run chase

  • Pakistan's previous highest T20 chase was 188 against Australia in Harare in 2018
  • Rizwan made an unbeaten 74 as Pakistan chased down a target of 189 with one ball to spare

JOHANNESBURG: Opening batsman Mohammad Rizwan steered Pakistan to their highest winning run chase as they beat South Africa by four wickets in the first Twenty20 international at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Rizwan made an unbeaten 74 as Pakistan chased down a target of 189 with one ball to spare.

Their previous highest T20 chase was 188 against Australia in Harare in 2018.

The match swung in the last four overs of the two innings.
South Africa could score only 29 in their last four overs, while Pakistan thrashed 52 off the last 3.5 overs

BRIEF SCORES

South Africa 188-6 in 20 overs (A. Markram 51, H. Klaasen 50; Mohammad Nawaz 2-21, Hasan Ali 2-28)

Pakistan 189-6 in 19.5 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 74 not out, Faheem Ashraf 30; B. Hendricks 3-32, T. Shamsi 2-29)

RESULT

Pakistan won by 4 wickets

Series: Pakistan lead the four-match series 1-0

Toss: South Africa


Major opposition party leads in re-election in Pakistani town of Daska

Updated 11 April 2021

Major opposition party leads in re-election in Pakistani town of Daska

  • Local news channels claim the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is winning the contest in Punjab's NA-75 constituency
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan held a by-poll in the area last February but later declared it null and void

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s local news channels claimed Saturday the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party was winning a closely watched electoral contest for a National Assembly seat in Punjab that fell vacant after the death of an opposition lawmaker Syed Iftikharul Hassan Shah last year.
Tens of thousands of people voted to elect their new representative in a re-election held earlier in the day for the NA-75 seat from Daska, a small town in Sialkot district.
The country’s election authorities held a by-poll in the area last February, but later declared the contest null and void due to widespread irregularities that the PML-N blamed on the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
The Election Commission of Pakistan suspected back in February that the results of 20 polling stations had been falsified.
Saturday’s electoral contest was largely believed to be between PML-N candidate Nosheen Iftikhar and PTI ticket holder Ali Asjad Malhi, though there were other politicians who also participated in it.
Pakistani election authorities informed a local news channel earlier in the day they had tried to provide a free and fair environment to hold a transparent election.
“Rangers are on patrol duty, ensuring the transportation of election staff and material, while army troops have been stationed in Daska Stadium and will be available on call,” Dawn newspaper reported. “To make the conduct of the re-poll transparent, CCTV cameras have been installed at 47 sensitive polling stations, out of a total 360.”


Pakistan among nations subject to quarantine in Ireland starting April 15

Updated 10 April 2021

Pakistan among nations subject to quarantine in Ireland starting April 15

  • Dublin joined neighboring Britain in bringing in the regime for people from countries deemed "high risk"
  • Strict lockdown in Ireland has turned one of the world's highest incidence rates of COVID-19 into one of Europe's lowest

DUBLIN: Ireland added Pakistan, Turkey, United States, Canada, Belgium, France and Italy to its list of countries where arrivals will be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine, tightening some of Europe's toughest travel restrictions to try to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Ireland, the only one of the European Union's 27 countries to introduce a hotel quarantine, announced it will also require all arrivals to have booked a COVID-19 test for five days after landing in addition to one taken in the days before travelling.

It followed neighbouring Britain in bringing in the regime for people from countries deemed "high risk" or those without a negative COVID-19 test. However, Britain has so far resisted calls for the inclusion of some European countries.

A strict lockdown in Ireland since late December has turned one of the world's highest incidence rates of COVID-19 into one of Europe's lowest.

Elsewhere in the continent, Norway requires a forced stay in a quarantine hotel for at least a week for anyone coming from abroad who does not own property, or can borrow the use of a property, in the country.

Armenia, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Curacao, Kenya, Luxembourg, Maldives and Ukraine will also be subject to quarantine in Ireland starting April 15, the health ministry said in a statement.

Israel, Albania and Saint Lucia were removed, having been added just over a week ago, meaning arrivals from more than 70 countries must quarantine for up to 14 days in a hotel room, or leave after 10 if they test negative for COVID-19.

The government initially stopped short of a recommendation by health officials last week to add a number of EU countries where large numbers of Irish nationals live, citing potential legal challenges around the bloc's freedom of movement rules.

Hotel quarantine rules are planned to be in place for only a few months, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said this week. Tourism groups have criticised the government for not providing an exit plan on how they would unwind the measures.

"We can see a permanent pathway out of this pandemic but can't allow variants of concern to set us back on the progress we have made," Donnelly said in a statement on Friday.