Karachi’s Demolition Man and the workforce crisis

The City Government of Karachi is on a drive to remove and demolish “illegal” structures all over the city. The most noticeable targets are billboards and hoardings, which were really outgrowing any aesthetic and environment-friendly limit. Thelas or portable vending tables (whatever are they called) were also removed from busy areas such as the Empress Market.

Then there are constructions marked as illegal – and that includes restaurants, shopping areas, and lately, kachi abbadis (shanty dwellings, mostly illegal or unpermitted or unauthorized constructions by immigrants from within Pakistan or foreign residents on unconstructed land property in Karachi). The city nazim (administrator) of Karachi Syed Mustufa Kamal, is the true Demolition Man: for the sake of controlling the insanity of encroachment and land-grabbing, he says he has to take a tough stance. Interestingly, a similar situation is taking place in Delhi, where demolition of fashion malls on court oder had left the high designers of the city shopless and rueful. The court has ordered to carry on despite protesting voices.

Many such dwellings got a notice to vacate space about a month ago. As the deadline approaches, a curious issue is emerging….

A workforce shortage crisis in the making
And that issue is of service-related workforce. Many of the housemaids and domestic helpers in home, and the service staff in restaurants and offices, factory laborers, to transport workers live in these places. A large part of Karachi’s workforce comes from all over the rest of Pakistan. In the ’80s, Karachi was the Dubai of the people of Pakistan, especially those from the impoversihed areas. For many, it is still the only chance of economic and sometimes social redemption.

Others in Karachi have come from rural areas which have a self-sufficient economy. But they seek a higher lifestyle or more independence or simply employment for everyone in the household. These workers often seek seasonal employment. When they aren’t busy with their crops, they migrate to large towns to get extra income.

The seasonal movements of these workers are already a pain to many of their employers, who spend the best of their time looking for and training the next gardener, cook, sewing machine operator, or office watchman. The impending removal of these people from the places they have occupied (and for which they often pay rent to the big fish illegal occupant), is going to lead to a peculiar situation.

Household owners are tense, and so are factory employers: what will we do when all the workers are homeless and looking to shift? Residents of Omer Town, an occupancy in a place marked for a hospital in North Nazimabad, are considering alternatives.

The Alternatives
1. Look for new homes and factories which can accomodate them in quarters.
2. Go back to the village.
3. Look for rental community dwellings, such as co-owned flats.
4. Etc.

It isn’t clear which way will this settle. Many of the people turned out from their dwellings might find it hard to get new accomodations on such short notice. The citizens of Karachi also fear the crime activity rate associated with many of the unemployed illegal residents in the city. One thing is for sure: at least for a while and until new solutions are found, there is going to be a crisis of workforce unavailability in the city. Time to look for how each of us affected will deal with the situation!

Disclaimer: KHI Metroblog and its authors were not standing and watching as this happened nor have we a hand in it. Nor do we oppose it. Guess what? We are just reporting a news! Any person disturbed by these demolitions and clearing is welcome to go and hug the sites and boards. Nope, we don’t sponsor that either.

This note was included in the interest of that minor section of the public which forgets that KHI Metroblog is the messenger.

35 Comments so far

  1. Zag (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 12:31 am

    Lol @ the disclaimer :)

  2. Inspirex (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 12:37 am


  3. Teeth Maestro (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 1:28 am

    A good report – its important for a forum like Khi Metblog to report the issue in a timely manner.

  4. wasiq (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 1:42 am

    Dil-ay nadaan tujhey hua kya hai ….

    Hum bhi dushman toh nahein hain APNEY

    Is it possible to go and hug the sites ?

    Can you or any of your like-minded bloggers please provide the listings and maps of the claimed sites….

    Empress market has a very nostalgic importance for me yet i have accepted all the changes made in the recent past with open mind in the interest of the city traffic,health and security.

  5. Dubai Crawler (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 1:50 am

    Its good to remove illegal enchrochments, but what about fixing the problem of sanity in the city.

  6. Ramla A. (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 1:53 am

    Zag/ Inspirex: Yes, you know

    Teeth: I noticed the crisis at home, and wonder how many are going to have this prob? How will this side of the dislodging issue be dealt with?

    Wasiq: Google! Most bloggers won’t have that kinda search muscle… regular media outfits have entire search and fact-checking depts to contribute to reports.

  7. SKETCHER (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 1:55 am

    Looks like MQM Nazim dosent need votes from these dwellings.

  8. Noman (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 4:33 am

    Do you really think that “Kachi Abadis” could be demolished ? They would ever continue to grow I bet. Why do not government lease those “kachi abadis”. I bet you were not serious when you wrote about alternatives. Instead of demolishing those areas, government should come up with plan to provide facilities in those areas. I was very happy when they bulldozed “Sabzazar” and “Mela” but if you try to bulldoze poor people then its unfair , I don’t care whether they were legal or illegal occupants; they are poor and it is enough for me atleast to give them some margin.


    P.S. I know I always create problem here but I have nothing against authors, I am just upset why we do not raise our voice to stop government to act brutally. Not all criminals live in those abadis and not all sharif live in posh areas. You can not discriminate on the basis of that.

  9. Original-anon (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 6:48 am

    The disclaimer here should serve as a reminder to the authors as well as the readers. Yes,you have mainly taken this ‘voluntary’ assignment to bring us news of the city and that is what you ought to do. I don’t think preaching, getting on a perosnal soapbox or launching a personal vendetta (as in your be the change post) really has any room here. For that sort of thing, personal blogs would be better.

  10. ANON THE FAKE ONE (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 8:27 am

    Dubai Crawler:

    Sanity eh? Would you mind describing this “problem of sanity”?

  11. fullstop (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

    lol…i think he meant sanitation!!

  12. Noman (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

    {impersonator comments removed.}

  13. faisal (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 4:51 pm

    Wow, this post ends up sounding truly elitist.

  14. zubair (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 6:37 pm

    when a writer think she knows it all, her output starts stinking like damp rotten crap, just like this post by Ramla A.
    And i did force myself to read the first 2 lines, but then the megalomaniac attitude made me stop!
    karachi.metblog rocks but it needs refined authors not just every dick, harry & ramlas!

  15. Ramla A. (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 7:16 pm

    I am only reporting a situation. And that is what I can do.

  16. Original Noman (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 7:45 pm

    What is going on,Some body is using my name , that is not good. I never get personal. I am sure authors could see email address so they can differentiate b/w original and fake.

    Zubair your opinions are on air so please please don’t hit below the belt even if you have problems with Ramla, give her break man.

    Ramla, you could ignore such comments, not need to reply every comment, they would stop if they don’t get any thing from you.

  17. Original-anon (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 7:48 pm

    {Comment addressed to the impersonator Noman removed.}

  18. Ramla A. (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 7:59 pm

    Re: Faisal

    My bad. I should not have been sarcastic in the disclaimer. But I take no position on issues which I do not have adequate info on.

    The disclaimer has nothing to do with the situation reported or the post.

    As for the report itself, I should have specified:

    Omer Town/Omer Goth is marked as a place for a hospital, occupied by land-grabbers and sub-let. The alternatives considered are by the residents of the town, as I have heard from them.

    Second, I never mentioned sanitization, but “sanity” of town planning.


  19. Ramla A. (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 8:02 pm

    Real Noman:

    thanks. I did feel you are acting strange, and an IP check has confirmed that someone is abusing your name. I will remove the comments of the prankster Noman, and those of mine addressed to the fake you.


  20. Ramla A. (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 8:26 pm

    Original Noman:

    Thanks, you are right, and I will take your advice. BTW, your impersonator has been ID’d through an IP scan. And I have NOW removed the entire thread by and in response to him. :)

  21. Real Noman (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 8:27 pm

    {Comment removed; impersonator ID’d.}

  22. Real Noman (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

    IP checking is not very secure, I could easily fool it in 5 seconds and I am sure others can too. Why in the first place we do need that, why do we need moderation, why just people can not change their mind set ?? Using some one else identity is just not imaginable. This just means that you want to create bad air here. If you do not want to show yourself then post as anonymous but don’t use others’ name.

  23. Maaz A. Khan (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 9:15 pm

    Just to share something related with u guys…

    According to a survey there are around 18,000 billboards of different sizes in Karachi city alone… Only 8,000 are legal (Shocking, right)

  24. Ramla A. (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 11:45 pm

    orig-Anon: That’s a wise word there, and I will keep it in mind.

    On another issue: I do request, however, that my use of the word “voluntary” is kept in the context in which I meant it. Which is this, that unlike a regular journalist who has transport, camera facility + fact-checkers, searchers, assignment editors, editorial policy and what not at their back, blogger do not. That’s why bloggers can only do as much, though we’d always like to do better, just like all normal humans do.

    With that in mind I hope once and for all that it is not assumed that I meant I or any other writer is doing a favor {“working voluntarily”} but that, like any other volunteer for any cause social or commercial or whatever, our scope is limited.


  25. SKETCHER (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 1:16 am

    RAMLA…May I ask why are you deleting comments from the impersonator noman.

    NOMAN is not a very uncommon name.

  26. Ramla A. (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 1:35 am

    Sketcher: all the usual checks were run, and I do not usually delete comments, even if abusive to me.

  27. Poo Poo Head (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 1:50 am

    Good Point Sketcher, it came to my mind too but the person was trying to be “Noman”. Now I m changing my handle to “Poo Poo Head”. Its copy righted material.

    Any how comments should not be deleted at all unless they are “real” abuses(aka galiaN).


    Poo Poo Head (Noman)

  28. wasiq (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 2:17 am

    Its a great relief to know that nobody else will be able to use my name and ID on this blog.

    Oh my God! the whole world of metrobloggers knows my email address except you and the girl next door ……

  29. SKETCHER (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 4:41 am

    RAMLA thanks for the reply…but the reply still needs more clarification.

    You say usual checks..would you mind sharing what they r??

    I am curious because you said you dont delete comments abusive to you but if the guy who was posting as noman did not post abusive comments then why did you delete comments.

  30. xia (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 6:11 pm

    Ahhh!!! Empress Market. Khala yeh kia yaad dila diya. I used to go there all the time. Just to watch those animals on sale in those patli galis. And then there was these shops where you could get niswaar and i am not sure what else. There was these shops of dry fruits and meat market…. I miss it all.

    Kachi abaadis are always a problem for karachi. Yes it will bring down the work force and it hurts to see people homeless. But they built a home illegally and if these abadis are not controlled, they become a heaven for illegal activities. I have some personal experiences with these abadis as i used to live close to two such colonies.

    I am not sure why people do not understand these blogs and they just have to argue about everything.

    Thanks Ramla. Assalaamualaekum

  31. Ramla A. (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 8:14 am

    Wa-alaikum Assalam Xia:

    Yea! You’ve seen that weird animal gali too? I took a tour of the place (for the first time) about 2 years ago with “guides”. We had a press cameraperson with us, and spent a great day taking photos of Saddar and Empress Market. We photographed rickshaws, bookstalls, donkey carts, vividly-colored oil bottles. Then had an awesome lunch of maash ki daal with red hot naan in a pathan ka hotel. With set qisim ki doodh patti to go! The cameraman discovered niswaar was available too. We declined an order.

    We then walked into the animal gali, which was amazing in variety and pathetic in condition. If that wasn’t enough to get upset over, I then saw… some really ugly stuff… in front of the meat market and lost some of my marbles. (My guide instinctively covered my face to prevent the sight and the *smell* from catching me off-guard.) But all in all, an awesome day getting to know Karachi.

    I want to go there again.

  32. Dubai Crawler (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

    Thanks Fullstop,

    thats indeed was spell mistake, which really took the comment in other direction.

    take care

  33. Kashif Aziz (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

    This demolition is just part of the show every new government puts up in first few months of power. I have seen an apartment complex bulldozed behind Hydery market. Normally the affected people do not get any compensation. I am in favour of removing the encroachments but start by removing the illegal bus and coach stands rather than throwing people out of their houses.

  34. Kashif Aziz (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

    Another point. This issue shouldn’t be taken only as workforce crisis in city. There are humans involved in it who are thrown out of their living quarters. We should not get selfish and start worrying about our masees, drivers and chowkidars but think seriously about the pour souls.

  35. Original-anon (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 11:22 pm

    There are so many issues here that I don’t understand.First, why do Pakistanis need all the fleets of servants? Why can people not do their own house and garden work? And, when we do hire these people, why can we not pay them enough to live in a proper place and not these shanty towns? I hear arguments that by employing them as servants we are actually doing them a favor because otherwise they will have no employment at all but really, do we not perpetuate their subservient existence and poverty this way? As I said, I do not understand these and would like to hear others’ opinions.

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