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Sindh’s Nationalist Parties Distance Themselves From Violence At Bahria Town Protests

Trade unions, farmers’ organizations, Sindhi nationalist parties and local affectees staged a protest this week against the alleged demolition of local settlements (‘goths’) by Bahria Town Karachi. In the course of these protests, some cars have been set on fire. Karachi police have reportedly arrested more than 80 people on charges of protesting and rioting in Bahria Town.

With the exception of one or two channels in Pakistan, the mainstream media did not cover the demonstrations against Bahria Town in Karachi, but the protests have been well received on social media. Users on social media expressed different views: some consumers are calling for action against the violent protesters, while others are accusing the Sindh government of backing Malik Riaz’s alleged illegal activities with Bahria Town.

Nationalist parties in Sindh have taken a stand against yesterday’s violent protest, saying that they have nothing to do with damage to property. Some nationalist activists fear that the protest could be used to further tighten restrictions against critical voices.

Reacting to the incident, president of Qaumi Awami Tehreek, Sindhi nationalist leader and intellectual Ayaz Latif Palijo said that Sindhis are peaceful people. He added that the police should investigate the incident, as the arson and vandalism that took place yesterday has nothing to do with Sindhi nationalists and political activists. Instead, he termed the arson as a mischievous act and that police should take action against those responsible. He further said that the people of Sindh are hungry and unemployed and if the remaining agricultural land were taken away from them, they would be ruined. He noted that the occupation of government and non-government lands in Sindh is not acceptable. Palijo emphasized that people are being deprived of their lands and they are being starved, so the only way for them to express their opposition is to protest.

Regarding the position taken by Bahria Town that it is claiming ownership of this land, Ayaz Latif Palejo took the view: “I am not saying that Bahria Town did not buy lands. They bought some lands from the people. But the remaining millions of acres of land belonging to Gupols and Jokios and thousands of others have been occupied without their consent or that of the Land Department.”

According to Sindhi nationalist parties, the Supreme Court had demanded payment for 16,000 acres of land from Bahria Town, but the latter is expanding the project and has seized 40,000 to 50,000 acres of land.

Sindh United Party President Jalal Maqsood Shah, speaking to Naya Daur Media, said of the violence and commotion that took place in Karachi that nationalist political parties have nothing to do with it. He said that ten parties had announced a peaceful protest against the occupation of Bahria Town and several furlongs away from where the protest was taking place, fifty to sixty individuals started rioting to disrupt the peaceful protest. They set fire to property. Despite the presence of a large number of security personnel in Bahria Town, including a large contingent of police, they did not try to stop it and when the riots broke out, tear-gas shelling and baton charges began on peaceful protesters sitting far away. This, according to Shah was planned “so that there would be no resistance in the future against the occupying groups.”

Replying to a question on the role of the Sindh government, Jalal Maqsood Shah said that Sindh government and Bahria Town are cooperating in this whole process – otherwise they would have stood with their people. Shah believes that the Supreme Court had allowed Bahria Town only 16,000 acres but now Bahria Town is looking at 40,000 to 50,000 acres. According to him many other land-occupying groups are also involved in the game aside from Bahria Town.

Asked whether the state and Sindh government were using the protest as a pretext to crack down on nationalist parties, the Sindh United Party president said that peaceful rallies and protests were a basic constitutional right of every citizen. Shah believes that political parties have nothing to do with the violence and that what happened was part of a deliberate plot.

Naya Daur Media tried to get the position of Sindh government spokesman Murtaza Wahab in this regard but he did not respond.

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