An unfortunate incident took place at Gujjar Nullah in Sadiq Nagar, Karachi, on Tuesday. A demolition drive was carried out along the Gujjar Nullah in which part of St. Joseph’s church was razed, which caused anguish among the residents of the area.
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About the demolition drive
Urban planners, researchers, and members of civil society groups. have repeatedly criticized the demolition drives along Gujjar and Orangi nullahs. Hundreds of families have been rendered homeless since the drive began, and most await rehabilitation.
The Supreme Court had ordered the removal of encroachments along the nullahs to prevent urban flooding and to promote the smooth drainage of rain and sewage water. However, residents argued that the anti-encroachment teams are demolishing more structures than needed to clear the nullah.
Locals in the area believe that authorities are preparing to construct a 30-feet-road on either side of the nullahs, which was not included in the plans submitted before the apex court.
People protested the demolition but to no avail
Activists and civil society groups like the Karachi Bachao Tehreek, along with members of the Gujjar Nullah Affectees Committee, protested against the operation on Sunday night. However, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s anti-encroachment teams were not deterred and razed roughly 30 percent of the religious building.
Criticism of the demolition drive pours in
Urban planner Mohammad Toheed tweeted:
KMC is demolishing the church along Gujjar Nala. People are cutting through the Church diagonally to follow the contour of the road. It is not the case of widening the Nullah; it’s about constructing a road.
The unlawful demolitions along Gujjar Nala are still underway, Monday morning, @KmcPakistan set to demolish St. George’s Catholic Church in Kausar Niazi Colony-Sasiq Nagar along Gujjar Nullah.@StopEvictionKHI @KarachiUrbanLab @purpleside24 @AliMantiq pic.twitter.com/I1WePcOvMy
— Muhammad Toheed, Urban Planner (@UrbanPlannerNED) August 22, 2021
Similarly, lawyer Abira Ashfaq tweeted:
This is how we treat our minorities. This is how we destroy what they built – their Church. Government of Sindh, you will have to pay.
Locals speak about the demolition of the church
Speaking to a media outlet, a resident, Sonia, said:
There was no resistance from the community. No one can protest and stop these people. The authorities had marked 11 percent of the only church in the area as ‘encroached,’ but they razed over 30 percent of it. There are over 4,000 Christian people whose only place of worship was razed. The other church in the neighborhood was torn down a couple of months ago.
Many residents were hesitant to speak against the anti-encroachment teams on the record. However, several came forward to complain about the discriminatory attitude authorities held against the Christian community. A local shared:
There was a wine shop that was marked, but no one dared to demolish it. There are worship places of other religions as well, and they are left untouched.
One elderly affectee, Zeenat, said:
My house was razed to the ground during the ongoing operation, but it’s more painful to see our worship place being destroyed.
According to Zeenat, the affectees have been staging protests since the demolition drives began. She stated:
Nothing happened. No one cares for our protests. No one counts us [as people].
Another resident, Irum, commented on the apparent callousness of the anti-encroachment teams and said:
We were praying and weeping. We stared at them [as they razed the church].
The locals decried that the anti-encroachment teams have not spared leased structures too.
Affectees await rehabilitation and support from the provincial government
According to details, the top court directed relevant authorities to ensure that the affectees are provided alternative housing during the demolition drive. However, the provincial government has still not provided demolition drive affectees with alternate locations to reside.
Many locals whose houses have been entirely or partially razed are still living atop the rubble. Some families have put up makeshift tents, while others reside on the debris under the open sky.
Some residents can be seen collecting iron rods from the rubble accumulated in the area. Zeenat said:
This is the only source of income my family can rely on. For the past two months, my sons have been excavating material from the debris to sell in the market.
Explaining her living situation, Zeenat said:
My family has limited resources, so we could not move – those who could afford to have already left the area.
The anti-encroachment team has no comment on the matter
Several media channels attempted to reach out to officials of the anti-encroachment team for their comments. However, none of them were available for a statement. One official on-site told a media channel that he was only following the orders issued by higher authorities.
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