LAHORE - The Lahore Development Authority launched the first phase of its operation against slums in Johar Town on Sunday and retrieved 1,000 kanals of land in the Finance and Trade Centre Block near Expo Centre.

Slums are present in the vicinity of Johar Town without any education facilities, health facilities, sanitation, water supply lines and electricity and gas supplies. The operation will continue on Monday (today) as well.

With the increase in population in recent years, Lahore has become house to 11.13 million people, as per the latest census. Slums have flourished in the city like mushrooms.

The LDA launched the operation against slums spread on 56 kanals of land near Khokhar Palace (a house of the Khokhar family near Shaukat Khanum Hospital and political stronghold of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz).

Sources in the LDA confirmed that the authority had now decided to take back the state land, which had been occupied in the name of slums. “In the first phase, influential people facilitated some poor and homeless people set up temporary homes on the state land and then they started receiving rent from them,” a source said.

Johar Town’s Finance and Trade Centre Block is full of slums, which are now being removed. There are slums around malls like Emporium Mall and in Samsani village (town) in Johar Town.

The Lahore Development Authority claimed that these slums were located on the state land and people living there were giving rent (which is illegal) to influential people, who safeguard their interests and protect them from police raids.

It is unclear yet whether the government is going to provide alternative space to these slums residents or not. A good number of homeless people set up their temporary tents around Liberty Market to spend chilly nights of December.

Most of the people living in shanties earn money from scavenging or begging, according to a research paper published in Research Front titled “A study on the lives of slum dwellers of urban Lahore” (2014), which studied 150 slum-dwellers in Johar Town, Gulberg, Walton, Askari, Guru Mangat Road, Johar Town and Saggiyan Pull localities.

On Sunday, officials in Johar Town made announcements through loudspeakers on behalf of the area SHO that people who are victims of land grabbing should contact the police during an open court.

An announcement from a Wafaqi Colony mosque was made. “It is announced on behalf of Johar Town SHO that people who are affected by any sort of land grabbing by Afzal Khokhar and Saiful Malook Khohar are urged to reach the open court set up by the SHO at the Johar Town Police Station.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has already ordered placement of the names of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders Afzal Khokhar and his brother Saiful Malook Khokhar on the Exit Control List (ECL) in the Lahore Development Authority case.

Hearing the suo motu case on Thursday about 22 encroachments on 22 plots, the chief justice of Pakistan had directed the LDA to retrieve the land grabbed by the Khokhar Brothers.