In Pakistan, rare are the occasions when government correct its wrongs. Usually, the red tape of bureaucracy creates hurdles for the seekers of justice. After a hue and cry over authorities’ ill-planned anti-encroachment drive in Karachi Saddar and the beautification project of Empress Market, the process that caught the affected ones off guard, the district government has realised to correct the wrong it had done to the people. The Mayor of the city Wasim Akhtar maintains that as many as 1470 shopkeepers have been provided with alternative shops in different areas. He has also given the assurance that the rest of the affected ones will also be rehabilitated in the second phase. It is encouraging that the district government is responding to its criticism positively and trying to deal with the victims of the anti-encroachment drive humanely.

What the district government did in Karachi is a norm of the government. Every other development or restoration project that the government undertakes, little attention is paid to the negative aspects of such projects, let alone making an effort to minimise the adverse effects of such projects on the lives of the displaced people. The victims of Empress Market are lucky in the sense that their miseries caught the attention of the media and the government was widely criticised for the crude anti-encroachment operation. The attempt to beautify the historic building proved to be an effort to make lives of the people ugly by snatching their means of livelihood. It is just one example out of hundreds where the government does not have any plan to relocate the ones driven out of their places of business or living.

The Mayor has said that he will take strict action against the officials who are involved in the establishment of encroachments. These words should not turn into an empty threat. The district government needs to set up a commission to inquire about the officers in the district administration who allowed constructions of illegal establishments. The ones who allowed these establishments did not do it on humanitarian grounds. It goes without saying that they had accepted bribes to turn their eyes blind to what was going on. The guilty ones should be held accountable so that the district authorities do not face humiliation in future. It is hoped that the government has learnt its lesson, though the hard way.  Before proceeding with any such operation in future, the authorities will take all aspects of any such project in mind to avoid any further embarrassments.