It’s no mean feat restoring Karachi to its past glory — to turn it back into the city of lights, to the days when its streets would be given an olive oil wash, to a time of broad streets and wide alleys to speak for its properly-planned landscape. However, hopes for a clean and an orderly Karachi, if not the one of yore, are emerging. As encroachments have been removed from the colonial-era Empress Market inside and around which many unauthorised shops, structures, makeshift stalls and vending pushcarts had mushroomed over the years to block the view of this oldest market of Karachi. The market was built between 1884 and 1889. Thus the anti-encroachment operations here were basically aimed at preservation of our precious cultural heritage.
Efforts to remove unauthorised structures dotting around markets and shopping centres in Karachi are going on in other parts of the city as well. Streets in business districts, to start with, are being cleared of the encroachments that have over the years flourished under political patronage and with the connivance of local authorities, including the police, making a mockery of the law. It’s a U-turn — albeit a welcome one — on what is referred to as ‘China cutting’ in Karachi and what went on unhindered for years and years. The unlawful exercise saw open spaces as well as roads and streets of the city sold out to be used for residential and commercial purposes. There are even instances of parks and playgrounds turning into residential colonies.
It’s a pleasant surprise to see the illegal activity not just coming to a halt, but being undone as well. A miracle of sorts, indeed. Something Karachiites would never have imagined. All this is becoming possible only after the Supreme Court of Pakistan took an unprecedented initiative, ordering the removal of encroachments and illegal structures from all over the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2018.