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May 23, 2019

Commissioner wants trial run for KCR

Karachi

May 23, 2019

Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani on Wednesday said he wanted the Pakistan Railways to run a train on the Karachi Circular Railway’s (KCR) track on a trial basis to check the feasibility and prospects of the project.

Shallwani was holding a meeting to review the progress of an anti-encroachment operation on the KCR land which was initiated on the Supreme Court’s (SC) directives.

He said the relevant authorities would request the Sindh government to take up the matter with the federal government to run a train over 20 kilometres on an experimental basis under the supervision of the Pakistan Railways.

The commissioner lauded the efforts of all the departments concerned who made and implemented a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to clear the KCR track and its surrounding 50 feet of encroachments.

Shallwani directed all the deputy commissioners to take measures to initiate another phase of the anti-encroachment operation along the KCR track in which up to 110 to 120 feet of the surrounding radius of the track would be cleared of encroachments.

In this regard, he said the settlements and buildings falling within 110 to 120 feet of the track should be given legal notice to vacate the area in 45 days after which an operation must be carried out in light of the SC’s order.

East Deputy Commissioner Ahmed Ali said due to legal reasons, they would consider publishing ads in newspapers to give a 45-day notice to the encroachers beyond 50-foot radius of the track.

West Deputy Commissioner Zahid Memon said of 7.5-kilometre track in his district, 4.5 km had been cleared of encroachments.

Central Additional Commissioner Kamal Hakim informed the meeting that the anti-encroachment operation on the KCR track in District Central would be carried out from today (Thursday).

Operation decried

The persons who were affected after the recent demolition of as many as 60 houses in Hussain Hazara Goth and 30 shanties near the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology during a massive anti-encroachment operation in District East to clear the Karachi Circular Railway’s (KCR) right of way should not be termed encroachers and rather called ‘project affected persons’ (PAPs).

This is the stance of various civil society and non-governmental organisations which have called for the immediate suspension of the anti-encroachment operation on KCR land.

Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Wednesday, the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (Piler) Executive Director Karamat Ali said there were gaps in the Supreme Court (SC) order regarding the KCR.

Ali asked where the PAPs would go in the meantime If their houses or shanties were destroyed before the authorities had taken any decision regarding their rehabilitation.

The Piler executive director warned that the civil society would strongly oppose the government’s move to bulldoze such Katchi Abadis and launch a massive protest.

Ali maintained that the provincial government had no department for railways. “They have no capacity to run the KCR, nor have they got funds for that,” he said.

The SC on May 9 gave 15 days to the Pakistan Railways to clear at least 50 feet on both sides of the railway track and hand it over to the Sindh government, which was to make the KCR functional in 15 days.

National Commission for Human Rights member Anis Haroon explained that it was Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) which was involved in the KCR back in 2009 until 2013. According to the agency’s survey, 4,653 families resided along the track, which had been termed ‘project affected persons’, not encroachers in the documents.

Khan Badshah, the head of the action committee of the people being affected by the KCR operation, said the railway secretary had accepted before the SC that the families had settled along the track with the approval of the Pakistan Railways.

Harooon recalled that a committee comprising affected people and government officials was formed to sort the issue out. The committee, she said, asked the government how much right of way was required for the project but the government never gave any clear-cut answer. The dwellers along the KCR track, she said, were never served with any notice, but then all of a sudden came the SC’s order. “Not all facts and realities were put forward before the SC,” she said. “Where will these people go in Ramazan?”

Urban Resource Centre (URC) Director Muhammad Younus said the SC decision had two parts, the first one pertained to the KCR revival and the other one was about the rehabilitation of the affected people. He remarked that the government had no plan to rehabilitate the PAPs.

Jica history

However, DS Railways Karachi Syed Mazhar Ali Shah was of the view that the settlements along the KCR track were encroachments and their dwellers should be termed encroachers.

Shah told The News that back in 2009, it was Jica, their donor agency for the KCR, which had included the rehabilitation of the dwellers in its guidelines. The encroachments that were being removed currently, he said, were new and they were not included in the Jica’s old survey.

URC Joint Director Zahir Farooq, however, did not agree with Shah’s version. He said the 30 shanties razed to the ground in the recent anti-encroachment operation were part of the Jica survey. The dwellers of 60 houses demolished in Hussain Hazara Goth of District East were also PAPs under the survey. “Who will provide alternative places to them now and in what time duration?” he asked.

The Japanese agency had expressed interest in the project in 2010. It was supposed to undertake the project on soft loan at a 0.1 per cent interest rate that was to be returned within 40 years.

In a letter, Jica also recommended the government to resettle residents from the right of way of the KCR route by providing compensation.

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