UN human rights experts call for Pakistan to halt mass evictions in Karachi watercourses
Geneva [Switzerland]: United Nations (UN) human rights experts on Friday called on Pakistan to stop evicting close to 100,000 people living along the two narrow watercourses in Karachi -- the Gujjar nullah and Orangi nullah.
"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 experts said, according to a statement by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The experts noted that the legal basis for this mass displacement and the remedies available to those who are affected is unclear, but it has a horrid effect on the displaced population, putting many poor families out on the street in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to OHCHR, the evictions and demolitions, ordered after last year's devastating rains, may affect up to 12,000 homes housing 96,000 people.
According to the 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. Many of the affected homeowners have established tenure through land leases, or were connected to public utilities such as gas, water and electricity.
"We are extremely concerned that on Monday, 14 June, 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 said.
"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 experts added.
They also expressed strong concern that intimidation and unlawful detention have allegedly been used on numerous occasions against residents protesting the demolitions, and even against their allies, human rights defenders, which raised additional concerns about access to justice and remedies for those concerned.
The UN human rights experts urged Pakistan, currently a member of the Human Rights Council, to ensure that its policies and practices are in full compliance with international human rights standards governing relocations, evictions, and internal displacement.
According to Geo News, multiple people were detained by police on Monday after affectees of the Gujjar nullah anti-encroachment drive and activists carried out a protest outside Bilawal House in Karachi.
Police had already barricaded the roads leading to the Bilawal House. However, when the protestors tried removing those barricades, police stopped them from doing so and arrested multiple people.
This comes after an operation to remove encroachments along the Gujjar Nullah was launched last year after heavy rains devastated the city and flooded residential areas.
The drive has now progressed to demolishing residential structures, leading to mass evictions. (ANI)