Thursday, March 14, 2013

Parveen Rehman (1957 - 2013)

A 2009 WikiLeaks cable released yesterday adds new context to the discussion following last weekend's assault on a Pakistani naval base in Karachi. The Cable, signed by Consul General Stephen Fakan, surveys the threat posed by the city's armed political gangs: The police in Karachi are only one of several armed groups in the city, and they are probably not the most numerous or best equipped. Many neighborhoods are considered by the police to be no-go zones in which even the intelligence services have a difficult time operating. Very few of the groups are traditional criminal gangs. Most are associated with a political party, a social movement, or terrorist activity, and their presence in the volatile ethnic mix of the world,s fourth largest city creates enormous political and governance challenges. The cable surveys armed groups associated with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party, Muhajir Qaumi Movement (H), and Sunni Tehreek (ST). Interestingly, it argues that because of the deterioration of the rest of Pakistan, Karachi has become something of an "island of stability" but warns that the city "still has a number of well-armed political and religious factions and the potential to explode into violent ethnic and religious conflict given the wrong circumstances." Reference: WikiLeaks: Karachi gangs outnumber police Posted By Joshua Keating Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 12:47 PM Viewing cable 09KARACHI138, SINDH - THE GANGS OF KARACHI

KARACHI: A media-shy social worker who devoted her life to the development of the impoverished neighbourhoods across the country, was gunned down near her office in Orangi Town on Wednesday. She was 56. Parveen Rehman was born in Dhaka in 1957. She did part of her schooling in the former East Pakistan and migrated to Karachi after the fall of Dhaka. She received a bachelor’s of engineering in architecture from Karachi’s Dawood College of Engineering and Technology in 1981 and joined a private architect’s firm. A few months later, she left the job and joined the Orangi Pilot Project initiated by Akhtar Hameed Khan to bring healthy changes to the lives of impoverished residents of Orangi. “The late Akhtar persuaded her to join the OPP. We both joined the OPP in 1982 and since then we worked in close association,” said Anwer Rashid, co-director of the OPP-RTI (Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute). Mr Rashid choked on words as he described his working relationship with Ms Rehman. Noted town planner Arif Hasan, who is member of the OPP’s board, briefly visited Ms Rehman’s home and left early as he was deeply distressed like dozens of her friends and colleagues who had gathered at her house in Safari Boulevard in Gulistan-i-Jauhar. “She was a courageous and brave lady. She was a true pupil of Akhtar Hameed Khan who worked in an environment where most people will avoid to work,” said Mr Rashid. Soon after the private TV networks flashed news of her death, a large number of people flocked to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where her body had been shifted. Eyewitnesses said those who gathered in the hospital and outside her home, where she was living alone with her octogenarian mother, included dozens of residents of Orangi who were mourning her death. “She was a great help for us. She was just like an elder sister to whom we would go whenever a problem struck us,” said a middle-aged man who identified himself as Azmat Ali. Arif Pervez, development professional and a friend of hers, said Ms Rehman had been receiving death threats for a long time, apparently from the mafia involved in grabbing precious land on the fringes of the city. “She had been receiving threats on her life for a long time. We had discussed this several times but every time I advised her to take care of herself, she smiled, waved her hand and said what will they do, I have to work a lot and that too in the middle of the people,” Mr Pervez said. Ms Rehman was an ardent compiler of the record of precious lands, which were on the fringes of the city in shape of villages but were speedily vanishing into its vastness because of ever-increasing demand by thousands of families who were shifting to Karachi every year from across the country. She said on record that around 1,500 goths (villages) had been merged into the city since 15 years. Land-grabbers subdivided them into plots and earned billions by their sale. “She documented everything about the lands that have been grabbed. Another sin of her was to help those whose lands had been grabbed. Yet, she never hesitated to go to the area where her life was constantly under threat,” Mr Pervez said.“Many people certainly have lost their elder sister,” he said. Noman Ahmed of NED University said Ms Rehman’s great achievement was to get involved and empower communities in development work. “She involved communities in development work and her cautious endeavour was to empower people and lessen their sense of deprivation. Her motto was way forward. She saw it as a defeat to terrorists by not changing her routine to help people,” Mr Ahmed said. Besides her mother, Ms Rehman is survived by her two brothers and a sister, living abroad. REFERENCE: Parveen Rehman: a fighter for the poor silenced

Parveen Rehman on Land, Politics and Violence in Karachi by Fahad Desmukh

2012: “They came with gunmen,” said Parveen Rehman, who heads a social development nongovernmental organization in Karachi. “Five or six went into the courtyard and they said that ‘today we will occupy this place no matter what.’” Rehman said the armed thugs wanted to take over the group’s compound. Luckily, she said, a person in her organization knew someone more powerful. So they turned to him for help. “He came and he said if you fire then we’ll fire many more rounds,” Rehman said. “So imagine, to save ourselves, we went to a bigger thug.” This is by no means an isolated incident. Many organizations and businesses face similar problems. And it’s especially hard to fix because the violence goes right to the top, to city officials and political parties. Karachi houses almost every different ethnic and political group in the country: Muhajirs, Pashtuns, Baloch, Sindhis… not to mention a range of Islamist groupings. All of the different groups have political organizations that claim to represent them. And most of those groups have their own militias. Parveen Rehman said that grabbing land brings lots of power. “There is continuous battle over various segments of land in Karachi between various groups of people who I would not say are given sanction by any one political party; but who as a strategy align themselves with political parties,” Rehman explained. “And police and of course all the government departments and the elected members are all partners in this. Because the money involved is so much, that overnight you can earn so much more.” It’s a strategic mix of politics, crime and business. Once a political party’s thugs steal land, it’s divided and illegally sold to others. And that creates an instant – beholden – constituency. This phenomenon of “land-grabbing” exploits the weakness of state institutions, as well as the ever-increasing demand for housing not met by the government. About half of Karachi’s estimated 17 million people live this way, dependent on one private group or another. REFERENCE : Urban Violence and Land Grabbing in Karachi JANUARY 18, 2012 BY Fahad Desmukh Fahad Desmukh is a journalist based in Karachi, Pakistan. He has previously worked as a news reporter for Express 24/7 and Geo TV in Pakistan.

Orangi Pilot Project: Environment and Urbanization by Arif Hasan

Death of a social activist By Ardeshir Cowasjee November 15th, 2009 THE desecration of Gutter Baghicha, a designated parkland for the people of Karachi, has been written about umpteen times over the past couple of years, but no effective action was taken by those concerned. On Nov 7, 2009, Nisar Baloch, the spearhead of the Gutter Baghicha Bachao Tehreek and a member of Shehri, two NGOs which have been trying for the last two decades to save this lung of the city,was shot through the head by unidentified assailants as he was leaving his house. As recorded in a Nov 10 editorial in the national press, “After Baloch`s death, most of Old Golimar, Bada Board area and Pak Colony, predominantly Sindhi and Baloch lower class neighbourhoods, were shut down in protest. The police had to be called to control the public outrage against the murder of a concerned citizen, known for his long-standing campaign against the land-grabbing mafia and the indiscriminate conversion of parks, playgrounds, beach promenades, sewage treatment plants, government building plots and even plots in the sea into commercial projects by the authorities. “The City District Government Karachi is accused of having changed the status of at least 26 parks and playgrounds in middle, lower-middle and working-class neighbourhoods of the city. While a large tract of land by the sea has been turned into a sprawling recreation point, Bagh-i-Ibn-i-Qasim, in the heart of a posh locality, the right of the lesser mortals in the metropolis to public spaces and amenity plots is being flagrantly flouted. Several petitions are pending at various levels of the courts against illegal conversion, grabbing and disposal of land as well as amenity plots all over Karachi…. “Nisar Baloch understandably became a thorn in the side of the land-grabbing mafia, reportedly backed by influential ethnic and political parties of the city. Ironically, he had addressed a press conference only a day before he was murdered where he highlighted the issue in detail and pinpointed (perhaps fatally) the forces lending administrative and political support to the illegal occupation of the land of Gutter Baghicha. Importantly, Nisar Baloch had criticised both the MQM and PPP in equal measure, the former for complicity in coercion and the latter for its expedient tardiness. The Sindh chief minister had slapped a ban on the disposal and leasing of plots by the city government in July 2009. The ban was challenged by Nazim Mustafa Kamal but this public interest matter was settled out of court as if it was a compoundable dispute.” Nisar`s widow, 29-year old Madiha, has written to Chief Justice Iftihkar Chaudhry under the heading `Appeal for justice in the matter of Gutter Baghicha, Manghopir Road, Karachi (a) Punish the killers of my social-activist husband, Nisar Baloch (b) Save Gutter Baghicha Park from land-grabbers and criminals`. The text “My 45-year old husband, Nisar Baloch, resident of Old Golimar in Karachi, worked most of his life for the poor people of our area, and laboured especially hard over the past 16 years to preserve the remaining 480 acres of Gutter Baghicha Trans-Lyari Park. “Powerful political parties, corrupt officials and vested interests want to grab this amenity land, and, during the past six months, have occupied a part of the park and are building houses on it. My husband held a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Nov6, 2009 to expose by name the criminals involved and to ask for your intervention in the matter (see press clippings attached….) “He was brutally shot dead the next morning at about 9.30 am near our house while driving his motorcycle, leaving me a widow with a two-year old daughter. Details of the murder in cold blood are given in the attached press clippings of Nov 8, 2009. “This brutal act has ruined our life; I and my daughter request your Honour to take lawful action against those responsible, order an impartial investigation of my husband`s murder, and help preserve his dream of a developed Gutter Baghicha Park accessible to all for recreation.” This targeted murder was undertaken the day after Nisar`s press conference. Who will be next on the list? Could it be a man of the Rangers? Or could it be a police official? Or a functionary of the City District Government`s Revenue Office whose sworn duty it is to protect government and amenity land? Karachi is a volatile tinderbox that could ignite at any time. It has slowly reached this stage over the past three decades because our politicians and government officials (not a single statesman among the lot) have progressively abdicated their statutory duty to render good governance and maintain the writ of law. The recent campaign to free the judiciary from the shackles that since 1947 have increasingly restrained it augurs well for the re-establishment of justice across the land. The citizens of Pakistan look to Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who has himself been a victim of injustice, to come to the aid of the oppressed and exploited. Reference: Death of a social activist By Ardeshir Cowasjee November 15th, 2009 Gutter Baghicha over the years by Shahid Hussain, Sunday, November 08, 2009

When it comes to Gutter Baghicha, land-grabbers have always been one step ahead in their attempts to bag the amenity plot to fill their coffers - It is a deplorable fact that in Pakistan, we constantly try to acquire any piece of land to build on or cultivate regardless of the fact that it may be be owned by another person, a community or that it might be an amenity plot. The greed is so great that we have to get hold of the land by any means possible. The small, green plot in Karachi termed ‘Gutter Baghicha’ gets its name from the sewerage treatment plant installed there during the pre-Partition era, in 1890. The entire area then covered 1,017 acres, and was a part of the Trans-Lyari Quarter meant to serve 100,000 people. The Karachi Handbook describes Gutter Baghicha as “an oasis in the desert and a paradise of insects, birds and naturalists.” Cereals, vegetables and fruits were cultivated here. Then, in 1947 onwards, an influx of refugees from India began to settle in kutchi abadis and began encroaching on Gutter Baghicha, such as Asif Colony, Zubair Colony, Hasrat Mohani Colony and Wilayatabad. These colonies were established on 25 per cent of the then Gutter Baghicha area. Haroonabad Industrial Area and marble-processing plants encroached upon another 15pc. In early 1993, an application was forwarded for the KMC Officers Cooperative Society on 200 acres of Gutter Baghicha land at throwaway prices. A couple of days later, the KMC Council, through Resolution No 82, approved the land use (without auction) for 99 years for residential purpose. This is in violation of Section 45 of SLGO 1979.

The Chief Secretary, Syed Sardar Ahmed, commented on it thus: “It would be unfair to convert the open park/farm into a housing society. It may be regretted.” But the summary never reached the chief minister (having been dexterously retrieved by the mafia), who surprisingly supported a resolution passed by the KMC committee. A couple of months later, the KMC advertised an auction of industrial plots in Gutter Baghicha at Rs1,000 per square yard. Then in mid-1993, without mentioning the unfavourable remarks of the Chief Secretary, a proposal to proceed with the KMCOHS was pushed to the chief minister, amounting to “cheating and concealing of facts.” The latter again supported the KMC resolution. A few days later, the Government of Sindh approved the housing scheme, undersigned as 45(5)(I) of SLGO1979 to KMC Council Resolution No 82 of 11-3-1993. A month later, a lease deed for 200 acres executed without receiving full payment and Rs11 million still outstanding. Then, there appeared an advertisement in the papers to go ahead with this housing scheme with a three-day deadline. Curious, I ventured to Lyari and talked to some of the locals. I was shown Gutter Baghicha and I decided to file a Human Rights case 6-K/93 under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, under the conversion of Gutter Baghicha amenity land into an industrial one. We obtained a stay order from the Sindh High Court. In September 1993, the Sindh EPA recommended to the Supreme Court that a public farm be established on this park. The Sindh High Court restrained KMC or any other transferees from transferring or selling any part of Gutter Baghicha. The Government of Sindh was also restrained from granting approval to the KMC resolution. It was a thoughtful summary from Justice Agha Sabihuddin that said the Supreme Court judgment should be awaited. In spite of the SHC stay order on this park, between 1994 and 1997 sub-leases of 415 plots were issued by the KMC for officers’ housing. Members of this fraudulent scheme tried to obtain bank loans against this allotment as well. Finally, what was done in the case of Gutter Baghicha. Were illegal industries removed and their owners charged? Was the KMC committee severely reprimanded and disbanded for its acts? Were those responsible or involved in this act, as well as the concerned KMC officers, hauled up by the police or fined? No. It shows a huge deficiency in our judicial back-up system. Opposite the Ferozabad Police Station in PECHS, the land mafia targeted an eight-acre plot named Sultanagar lying vacant in 1981, wanting to build a housing scheme here. 

The same was reserved for a ladies park. Humaira Rehman and I organized a signature campaign and gave this to the then Martial Law Administrator, Gen Abbasi, who then ordered against its sale and development. In the mid-90s, a 2,200 square yards plot on Hill Park in PECHS was illegally given out by Z.A. Nizami, DG, KDA, to a builder. Yousuf Jameel and I fought the legal case and we lost as Mr Nizami, as the DG, KDA, had a right to “allot plots”. The Kidney Park is another example. The open, park or green areas between New York, Singapore with and Karachi with populations of 14.6, 4 and 11 million is 12, 10 and less than 1pc, respectively. In addition, Karachi has the highest density of population — 6,300 persons per square kilometre. The population of Karachi will eventually reach 40 million and Pakistan at 473 million. Pakistan will emerge as the third-largest country in the world. Aside from these population projections, there are two reasons for a population influx in cities. One is rural migration and the other, national population growth. In Istanbul, there is an autonomous urban organization that is free from political pressures. Turkey’s current Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, was a one-time mayor and handled city issues. When low-cost housing takes place, then this organization is provided money to do it. There is no such thing as free plots. The Turkish population is also almost static at 67 million. Aside from this, another very important aspect to be noted is the diminishing river-water flow that results in lesser snowfall in the mountains. The solution is not to build another huge Kalabagh Dam and thereby cause Sindh another huge economic and environmental loss. All of us have already read about the millions of acres of wasteland due to sea-water intrusion in the coastal areas of Sindh. There is Brackish water in Badin at a depth of one-and-a-half foot below ground. Water holds its level irrespective of the fact that it is arable or seawater. When we build dams, we hold back fresh water, that results in intrusion of seawater. This is what is happening in Sindh. If we think in terms of economic loss, it amounts to billions of rupees. Aside from dams, we have to think constructively and learn from other situations such as the one in the Middle East where there is a shortage of water, but agriculture thrives. We have to line up our canals, thereby saving water for agriculture and the adjoining land from waterlogging. Pakistan spends 2.3pc on education, the lowest in South Asia, as opposed to Sri Lanka’s 11.7pc, in spite of its civil war. This has been continuing for the last 85 years. Pakistan needs money for education and it is there for the taking, but we must address this situation seriously. Alcohol, and horse racing are just two of the many areas of extravagance that remain untaxed. Think of all the new jobs being created if we include all this as part of the white economy. By these means, our education budget can multiply three or four times. Unfortunately, due to our warped and negative thinking, we have lost billions of dollars over the last 25 years. Finally, we spend around $230 million on education. If we take a fully-loaded F16 warplane each costing $80 million, only three of these would match the amount we spend on education in a given year. REFERENCE: Who will defy the land mafia? By Navaid Hussain February 2, 2003 ‘Gutter Baghicha will be saved from encroachment’ * Shehri launches signature campaign By Jamil Khan Published @ Daily Times on Oct 25, 2008

2009 : `I Own Karachi` and can sell it! By Ardeshir Cowasjee February 22nd, 2009 KARACHI, this increasingly ravaged city, has a dire history of the conversion of amenity plots to commercial and residential use. Virtually every `ruler` or administrator has left his mark on the exploding metropolis by giving away what was not his to give — public spaces and civic-use plots that were planned by experts for the common good. At the Corporate Summit on Climate Change held in Karachi last Thursday, the city nazim Mustafa Kamal told a gathering of some 200 businessmen, industrialists, environmentalists, academics and NGOs that he had learnt that day for the first time of the importance of the environment. He admitted to being unfamiliar with the Environment Protection Act 1997 and with the effects of climate change. He welcomed an offer from Leadership for Environment & Development Pakistan to assist him in evaluating his development strategy and his proposed solutions to the city`s problems, including mass transportation, treatment of 400 million gallons per day of raw sewage presently being dumped into the sea, and the management of 10,000 tons of garbage generated daily. Coincidentally, whilst the nazim was speaking at the DHA Golf Club, members of the MQM were passing a City Council resolution at the KMC Hall, barely eight miles away, converting over 40 acres of amenity space at Sewage Treatment Plant-2 in Mehmoodabad (located at N24o51`6`, E67o04`27` on Google-Earth) into a housing colony. This was done despite the protests of opposition members who foresaw `horrible devastation` if land assigned for a treatment plant expansion was swallowed up. They explained that many previous attempts to misuse and convert amenity spaces had been struck down by the courts. In July 2008, a similar illegal conversion (`commercialisation`) of a 2.5-acre space on the Clifton beach was attempted by the City Council treasury benches (over the objections of the opposition members) for use as a five-star hotel-cum-shopping complex. Earlier this month, a blitz of ads in the press announced the auction of the beach plot for a reserved price of Rs119 crores. References: `I Own Karachi` and can sell it! By Ardeshir Cowasjee February 22nd, 2009 2 3 4

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