Karachi court remands 120 Bahria protesters into police custody | SAMAA

An anti-terrorism court in Karachi has handed over 120 people to the  police for two-day physical remand a day after they were arrested during a protest against Bahria Town in Karachi.

Hundreds of protesters had reportedly attacked Bahria Town Karachi and set fire to several shops and vehicles in the housing society on Sunday. They were protesting what they say their forceful eviction from their ancestral lands in the vicinity.

The arrested men were presented before an anti-terrorism court. The investigation officer requested their physical remand, saying they will help the police identify other miscreants.

Who organised the protest?

The Sindh Action Committee, an alliance of nationalist parties in the province, gave the call for the protest against alleged hostile takeover of some goths by the Bahria Town management.

The committee comprises Qadir Magsi, Jalal Mehmood Shah, Ayaz Latif Palijo and other Sindhi nationalist leaders. The Sindh Indigenous Rights Alliance, which has led several such protests, supported the call too.

It was attended by residents of nearby villages, who say they are being forced to give up their lands.

“As soon as the protest turned violent, we withdrew all our members,” Sira’s Hafeez Baloch had told SAMAA Digital. “We were not part of what happened there. It might be a conspiracy of Bahria Town to turn a peaceful protest violent.”

The alliance has been striving to save lands of the indigenous people for the last eight years.

Bahria Town officials often visit nearby goths and ask the residents to vacate them, according to Baloch. They have offered to financially compensate the residents but the villagers have refused to give up their ancestral lands.

The Bahria Town management is trying to takeover lands in Noor Mohammad Gabol Goth, Usman Allahrakhiyo Goth, Hadi Bakhsh Gabol Goth and Abdullah Gabol Goth, according to Baloch.

Apart from these goths, it wishes to take over private lands owned by Kamal Jokhiyo, Faiz Gabol and Ameeruddin Gabol too.

Sindh Action Committee’s Qadir Magsi said those who engaged in violence had nothing to do with the protesters.

“They were Bahria Town’s own people who deliberately drove the protest towards violence,” he told SAMAA Digital. “We were staging a peaceful sit-in and the Sindh Action Committee had nothing to do with the violence in Bahria Town.”

Magsi said the police arrested around a dozen protesters. He demanded their immediate release.

Supreme Court ruling

In May 2018, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Malir Development Authority illegally granted land to Bahria Town Karachi. The Sindh government had allotted the land to MDA for building a housing scheme.

The MDA, however, exchanged the land with Bahria Town, the court said. Bahria Town was even barred from selling any plot or apartment in the housing scheme.

In March 2019, the top court accepted Bahria Town’s offer to pay Rs460 billion to acquire 16,896 acres off Karachi’s Super Highway. It did not include Bahria Town’s Sports City project.

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