Karachi encroachment: Should residents of ‘illegal’ houses be compensated?

The anti-encroachment drive in Karachi has led to people debating the legality of houses and buildings in the city.

SAMAA TV anchor Ali Haider spoke on the matter on his show Awaz on Tuesday. He showed clips of people who have lost their houses in the demolition drives and asked if they deserve to be compensated as they were living on “illegal” land.

Weighing in on the topic, lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir remarked that these orders have created uncertainty among the people. The middle class is now scared to invest anywhere because they don’t know which building is legal. “Right now, only DHA and Bahria Town seem like a safe option to them.”

He argued that government departments and officers must be held accountable for allowing the issuance of fake or illegal leases. For instance, if a car dealer is selling a car in the market, the buyers would assume that the dealer has completed all legalities. The buyer should not be expected to pay the price for the dealer’s malpractices.

“How is it the fault of the people that they invested in a house thinking that it is legal? They are already paying for everything. Why is anyone not questioning the bureaucrats and government officers?”

Nasir remarked that people living at Nasla Tower on Sharae Quaideen, whose demolition orders were given last week, have still been given a timeline that they will be compensated in three months. “What about the rehabilitation of people whose shops have been demolished at Aladin Park, or whose houses have been demolished along the Gujjar and Orangi nullahs?”

To solve their problems, the government should at least form a development commission so the affectees feel that someone is listening to them and their problems.

Ali Haider, however, said that it cannot be denied that the leases provided to people were fake and some buildings have been constructed on illegal land. “Builders are now hiding behind poor people but they did occupy plots.”

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