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Editorial | Bahria Town Has Created A State Within A State — With Govt’s Backing

Bahria Town’s barbaric use of force against villagers in the outskirts of Karachi to make way for encroachment continues. Two men were injured as the officials from Bahria Town opened fire on the residents who were resisting illegal evictions. Provincial government and police are missing in action as the management of the real estate company practices violence against residents of the goths.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto had last week ordered to halt the evictions being carried out by Bahria Town, seeking a report on the matter. The statement came in the wake of social media outrage over a similar operation where Bahria Town management brought bulldozers and tried to forcibly occupy land. Villagers who resisted were beaten up as police looked on. Despite the PPP chairman taking notice of the illegal evictions, the villagers were once against beaten up and harassed by the Bahria management on Friday. Videos showing people running amid gunshots have been doing the rounds on social media, yet the provincial and federal governments have not even paid lip service to condemning the violence.

Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz’s criminal shenanigans that have long gone unpunished are enabled by his deep pockets and even deeper political connections.

In December 2019, the properties of Malik Riaz were investigated by National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK. Following the probe, the NCA had reached a settlement of 190-million-pound sterling (Rs38 billion) with Malik Riaz’s family. The NCA gave the money recovered from Riaz to the government of Pakistan which surprisingly transferred it to Supreme Court of Pakistan’s accounts. It later emerged that this amount was paid to the apex court as part of a fine imposed on Malik Riaz in a case pertaining to Bahria Town’s illegal activities.

A recent Dawn report revealed that Riaz’s settlement with the UK authorities was facilitated by Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar who took great pains to convince the NCA to settle the matter. The government brokering the deal between Malik Riaz and UK’s investigative authorities exposes the level of unholy collusion between state and the controversial business tycoon. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘accountability’ narrative holds no weight if people accused of corruption are able to get away with it using their wealth. The PM must answer as to why Malik Riaz remains untouchable if the PTI government is serious about holding corrupt individuals accountable.

The Sindh government is led by a party that champions human rights, yet rights of these poor villagers continue to be violated under its watch. Provincial authorities should take notice of this abuse of power and hold the perpetrators accountable.

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Naya Daur