KARACHI: Beds, chairs and furniture were strewn on the side of the road leading to the US Consulate in Karachi as city authorities continued the demilition of upper portions of at least seven residential structures in Sultanabad’s Intelligence Colony. This demolition of houses, located adjacent to the US Consulate, is taking place in violation of a stay order issued by the anti-encroachment tribunal.
The residents had approached the tribunal earlier this month against the demolition - carried out on the pretext that the residential structures were encroachments. The tribunal granted the applicants an interim stay while ordering the defendants including the deputy commissioner and the Sindh Building Control Authority, not to continue with demolition until the next hearing of the case.
Residents dispute the claim that the structures are encroachments. They say that that even US Consulate officials had agreed to the construction of the upper storeys that are now getting demolished.
“We have been living here long before the US Consulate was shifted to this site,” says Sajid, who grew up in the area. The US Consulate shifted to its current location in 2011.
Sajid, who recently turned forty, said that when the consulate first shifted to the area, the area’s Nazim Mairaj Khattak along with area residents met the officials.
“It was decided in the meeting with the US Consulate officials that the residents would be allowed to add another storey to their sinlgle storey structures. They could add one floor to their houses and nothing above that,” Sajid said.
“This was agreed in order to ensure the security of the consulate with the decision that no building in the neighborhood could be higher than the consulate boundary walls.”
Sajid said that the officials from the consulate also inspected the houses and expressed their satisfaction.
This is the reason why Sajid and other residents are shocked by the aggressive action by authorities. Over a dozen police vehicles and around 30 policemen were in the area on Thusrday as demolition work was underway.
Residents say that even the first floors of houses were being demolished even though it was part of the agreement with the US Consulate officials while the anti-enroachment tribunal has also granted the residents a stay against the demolitions.
Officers and officials on site refused to speak to Aaj Digital despite repeated attempts. One officer in plainclothes said that the demolition was taking place on the orders of deputy commissioner of Keamari.
Activist Khurram Nayar of the Karachi Bachao Tehreek said that Keamari DC Mukhtiar Abro was present on site while the demolition was underway on Tuesday. “When people protested against the demolition, the Keamari DC attacked one of the protestors.”
At least five protesters were taken into custody over the protest. Nayar said that the protesters were booked for making videos of the demolition, while accusing the police of giving them the run around. According to the first information report (FIR), those in custody have been charged with multiple crimes including rioting, incitement, unlawful assembly while armed with deadly weapon, attempt to murder, and distubring peace among others.
At least one members of the demolition team, who spoke to Aaj Digital on the condition of anonymity, said that he didn’t know whether the protesters were armed.
They said that they knew about the stay order but were instructed by the deputy commissioner to be ready for the demolition. “We just assumed that new orders had been issued.”