Bahria Town Forcibly Occupies Land, Beats Up Villagers In Karachi As Govt Looks On
Every day Murad Gabol wakes up with an ever growing apprehension that once again the corporate machinery will attack his people, occupy their lands and bulldoze what little greenery they have been left with. Every day when the sun rises, he looks at the grand mosque, touted as the world’s third largest, being built in Bahria Town and wonders how a worship place can be built on the land forcibly taken away from his people.
Murad’s father, Faiz Gabol, famously known as Faiz Chacha, died fighting the Bahria Town administration as he refused to sell the lands owned by Malir’s indigenous people to them. Legend has it that when powerful business tycoon and owner of Bahria Town Malik Riaz himself came to see him and gave him a blank check for his land, Faiz declined the offer, saying: “This land is my mother, and you can never set a price for a mother.”
Like father, like son. Murad was picked up on Thursday apparently by Police on the orders given by Bahria Town officers. He was tortured and bore marks on his face, similar to his father when he was taken into custody in the same manner.
Speaking to Naya Daur Media, Murad said the Bahria Town officials came with their machinery to occupy 24 acre of his land on Thursday and when he protested and tried to resist, he was surrounded by the company’s employees and severely tortured.
“A few well-suited men ordered the officials to beat me up to clear the way for Bahria Town’s machinery. Later on, the police took me in custody while I myself saw Bahria Town’s people pressuring the policemen to lodge FIR against me,” he said.
Murad says he has filed a petition against Bahria Town in Sindh High Court (SHC) today (Friday) and will get medico-legal certificate of the torture he bore, to file a complaint. “I will not sit silently,” he adds.
This was not the first time that Bahria Town entered the small villages of indigenous people in Malir and ransacked their property while also evicting them from their land that they have been living in and cultivating for centuries now.
Where was the state?
The state and its institution ostensibly worked with the company against the indigenous population as Malir Development Authority (MDA) unabatedly allotted thousands of acres to Bahria Town. Later on in May 2018, an apex court bench found the authority guilty of this massive scam which was carried out in connivance with the Board of xRevenue. But by then it was too late. All the land had been eaten up by the greed of Bahria Town.
Almost a year later, the Supreme Court in March 2019, accepted Bahria Town Rs460 billion’s offer to stop the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from filing a reference against the company. The money didn’t reach the people whose lands were stolen by the company. However, after this judgment the affectees of Bahria Town’s land grab saw unprecedented brutality at the hands of the company. Bahria Town employees came with bulldozing machines, brandishing the SC order which failed to elaborate what part of Malir district had been handed over almost voluntarily to the company.
Where is the outrage?
Hafeez Baloch, a local political activist and organiser associated with Karachi Bachao Tehreek and Sindh Indigenous Rights Alliance, who has been campaigning against Malik Riaz’s mighty company, says the state and its institutions have failed the people.
“In the recent exercise of occupation by Bahria Town, some 3,000 people from different goths have been affected. Women and children try to resist by standing in front of the heavy machinery but they get disappointed when they see the police officers doing nothing against the brutality of Bahria Town officials whose guards armed to teeth. The situation seems nothing less than that of Palestine,” says Hafeez.
Although the indigenous people have their land documents to prove their ownership, they are not that aware or strong enough to fight the land grabbers when they show up with machinery, Hafeez laments. “That is also because in recent times the brutality of Bahria Town has increased multifold.”
He alleges that the local leadership of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is in cahoots with Bahria Town. “We have been surrounded and cornered. “There seems to be no way out. Even the judiciary is not working in our favour,” he says.
The author is an investigative journalist.