KARACHI: The problem of illegal encroachments in Karachi has become a nightmare for the civic agencies, as removal of more than 2 million roadside stalls and vending carts, called Patharas, is next to impossible for the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and other agencies, already marred by corruption, political interference and inefficiency.
All Karachi Tajir Ittehad (AKTI) President Atiq Mir said that due to dillydally attitude of the civic agencies and ever-growing tendencies of extortion in political players, the illegal encroachments had become a lucrative business in Karachi, in which many powerful mafias were involved.
He said there were more than 2 million Patharas in Karachi, each paying Rs 200 to Rs 1,000 extortion (Bhatta) daily. He said this was a multi-billion-rupee scam in which not only black sheep of KMC, anti-encroachment and police departments are involved but many powerful political players also receive a major share from this Bhatta collection. He is this is why that each and every drive against these encroachments has failed in the city. He said it is a simple truth that these encroachments give extra money to corrupt elements in KMC, police and anti-encroachment departments and they are not so foolish to kill their golden egg laying goose.
Atiq Mir, quoting example of Robinson Road near Eidgah Market Karachi, said that some streets are entirely closed for public transport buses just to give more space to Patharas. He said that no one dared challenge the encroachment mafia because it was too powerful. He said that even the police and the KMC people dared not to harm the vested interests of this encroachment mafia. He said that Karachi could never be purged of illegal encroachments until political parties renounced their support to encroachers.
He said that traders and shopkeepers suffered a lot due to encroachments, as their market areas witness frequent traffic jams and buyers, especially women, avoided visiting these dangerously crowded streets. He said that in some cases, the shopkeepers themselves created encroachments by displaying their wares on footpaths and streets. He said that in Karachi, this misuse of roads and streets was so high that even car showroom owners had displayed their cars on roads and footpaths, blocking the flow of traffic. In this regard, he quoted the examples of Tariq Road, Khalid Bin Waleed Road and New MA Jinnah Road.
Mir said the government should feel the seriousness of this issue now, as more delay would only complicate the matter, adding that the business of encroachments was swelling with the passage of time. He suggested that in the first place, all encroachments that blocked the flow of traffic must be removed at all costs and no leniency be shown in this regard. He said this would also give a strong message to the encroachment mafia that they were not above the law. He admitted that generally the Pathara-wallas (pushcart vendors) belonged to the poor class, therefore, in order to protect them, more and more batchat bazaars be arranged at available open spaces and grounds in all areas of the city, so that they could also earn bread for their families. He added that they should not be allowed to occupy streets and footpaths and block the flow of traffic. He said that roads and footpaths were for motorists, commuters and pedestrians, and occupying them for doing any kind of business was a crime, which should be dealt with as per the law of land. He said that such vendors should be allowed to do their business in market areas only when the shops were closed, like on holidays, and that too on the condition that they would not obstruct the traffic flow. Altaf Shakoor, the president of Pasban Pakistan, a citizens’ rights organisation, said that well-organised flea markets should be arranged for Pathara-wallas and other vendors, but they should not be allowed to occupy roads and footpaths.
He said in Karachi, the issue of illegal encroachments was getting complicated, as the government lacked the political will to tackle this issue. He said it was a sad fact that lucrative income derived from illegal businesses of land grabbing, encroachments and extortion was one of the major sources of finance for many political outfits, and they would not allow an end to these malpractices, as it would deprive them for a steady regular income.
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