The government of Sindh has ordered the slums of Karachi to be removed, as they are a breeding ground for “criminals and terrorists”. The removal of slums will not solve the underlying problem, that there are a vast number of men, women and children residing in these slums not out of choice but because the government has failed to provide physical infrastructure to the people. The news comes a week after the Capital Development Authority (CDA) submitted a four-phase plan, to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for removing all illegal slums from the capital shortly after Eid. The four-phase plans mentions all the concerned partied involved in the demolition process and even the machinery to be used. But the most important question, the answer to which is absent from these plans, is where will these people go?

Karachi is home to some of the largest slum dwellings in South Asia (including Lyari, Machhar Colony, Orangi town and Azam Basti). Just demolishing slums and forcing people out of their homes will not provide any respite in crime. Crippling poverty will still be an issue, and hence people will resort to crime and violence elsewhere. Rather, the slums can be slowly made into formal housing, with public goods provided. Allocating the land to the poor people and providing sanitation, education and healthcare, will go a long way to improve the security situation in the metropolis. Demolishing these slums is only a cosmetic measure.

In the culture of Pakistani politics, the land will eventually go to the highest bidder and thousands of people will be homeless in the name of development. The government has to take necessary steps to either provide low-income housing schemes to resettle the families. Housing aside, it is the intangibles associated with a life built up over decades that are lost when people leave their home, even if the home is a straw hut. They lose their community, voice and organisation, as well as the sense of belonging. The damages will be reaped in the long run, the homeless and destitute turn to crime and terrorism.