Asia - pacific

Pakistan: Top court halts plan to demolish houses

Ongoing drive to clear government land has already razed hundreds of shops in Karachi

Pakistan: Top court halts plan to demolish houses

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped authorities from demolishing thousands of "illegally built" houses during an ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the commercial capital Karachi.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar overruled the top court's previous ruling during the hearing of a review petition filed by the local government.

The court ordered authorities to come with a relocation plan for thousands of people displaced by the ongoing drive.

The top court last month ordered the government of southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, to demolish illegal structures and bring the metropolis back to its “original shape”.

Following court orders, thousands of markets, shops and stalls built on government lands were flattened, mainly in the city’s downtown leaving thousands of workers jobless.

The move, though welcomed by many, invited widespread criticism from political parties and human rights groups, who blamed the government for launching the drive without a relocation plan.

Thousands of "illegally built" houses, mainly in the city’s low-income areas were the next target of the ill-planned drive, which could have displaced nearly a million people.

Karachi is Pakistan's most populated city with more than 15 million people.

Migration from across the country in the last three decades by people looking for better job and living standards has led to a dearth of resources, resulting in land grabbing to meet housing needs.

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