Defence, Clifton residents lash out at police for booking them in criminal case

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KARACHI: Even after a week of devastating rains, some areas of Karachi remain submerged in water with residents of different areas of the metropolis still waiting for their respective authorities to take action.

One of the areas seemingly more affected than the rest of the city is the posh Clifton and Defence Housing Authority (DHA) neighbourhoods who have been struggling with severe effects of urban flooding caused by last week’s torrential rains. 

With protests against the authorities having little or no effect, the residents will now have to face a legal battle with the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC), which has slapped them with a criminal case over the protest they held to demand the water’s drainage.

Residents of Clifton and DHA held a large protest outside the CBC office in DHA Phase-VI on Monday afternoon against the failure of the cantonment board authorities to drain the rainwater that has accumulated in their houses, streets and neighbourhoods over the past week.

Nearly 35 protestors have been accused of vandalism, spreading fear and using offensive language against government institutions, with names of 22 of them have been mentioned in the FIR by the CBC.

The FIR had been registered on the complaint of a CBC official against those who had held a protest over the non-provision of amenities and the slackness in removing rainwater from the roads within their respective localities despite the passage of almost a week since the latest spell of heavy monsoon rains in Karachi.

The height of the CBC’s lack of empathy can be gauged from the fact that even eight days after the unprecedented downpour, several DHA residents are still in a miserable state because rainwater mixed with sewage is yet to be drained from many homes, while the supply of electricity has also not been restored.

“We don’t have power for eight days. Our basement and ground floor is still flooded. We are in a miserable state,” Fouzia, a resident of the Khayaban-e-Muhafiz area in DHA Phase-VI told The News.

She said that the cantonment board authorities had told them that there was no proper rainwater drainage system in the area which is why they have been using gutters to drain the water.

“They also seem helpless. They say they pump in the accumulated water in huge tankers and flush it out into the sea, but still, the water level in the residential and commercial areas doesn’t appear to be decreasing.”

When asked if the residents had been compensated for their losses, Fouzia said there was no compensation for mental torture. “Residents have been spending hefty sums on petrol these days because they have been without power for eight straight days.

Nasima Saidol, an architect, who lives in a 20-year-old house in the same locality, said she had to spend Rs10,000 to drain the water from her basement.

“No one from the CBC helped us. They were too busy lodging an FIR against the residents,” she said, adding that the repeated carpeting of roads had raised the level of the roads higher than that of the houses and the drains in the area.

She stressed that construction needs to be done according to a system.

“Those roads and areas that are now downward have become catchment areas in DHA,” she pointed out and asked the cantonment authorities not to mess with the urban fabric.

Saidol added that all her expensive furniture, including her dining table and sofas, as well as carpets, cabinets and curtains have rotted, while all of her family’s things stored in her basement have also been destroyed.

She lamented that after the flooding, every shop was closed, the internet wasn’t working and they had no power for a week. “The DHA is in a severely messy situation.”

Ahmed Zawar, a musician and lawyer said he was looking at a loss of roughly Rs1 million because his basement music studio in the Shahbaz Commercial area in DHA Phase-VI was completely flooded.

He said that adjacent to his studio is an empty plot where the garbage of the entire commercial area is dumped. He said that despite several complaints to the DHA and the CBC, no one paid any heed.

After the heavy rain on August 27, he could not enter the area for two days.

He said when he sought the CBC’s help, he was told by the guards that all the officials were on leave. “We had no option but to drain the water manually through buckets,” he said, adding that there were two types of losses in his studio: firstly, all the electronic equipment that had mostly been destroyed, and secondly, the wooden interior of the studio had rotted.

After all, these losses, when the CBC lodged an FIR against the protesters, it showed how much disconnected they were, he added. “They made a mockery of themselves.”

Defence Society Residents Association President Sharafuddin Memon, who had also participated in the protest, said their association had asked the CBC to withdraw their FIR, but they were yet to respond. No official of the CBC was available for comment.

Meeting’s minutes

According to the minutes of the meeting held between CBC officials and DHA residents on September 2, the stagnant water will be immediately removed from the roads and proper stormwater drains will be constructed.

Supply of clean water in the pipelines was also to be ensured, proper sewage while an effluent disposal system would be regularly maintained and cleaned. All the damaged roads would be immediately repaired.

Surveillance cameras would be installed all over DHA, while an oversight committee of civilian residents will be formed to have a meeting every two weeks with the CBC’s CEO and his team.

CBC’s history

The CBC, according to the information available on its website, was brought into existence through a notification dated February 27, 1983, to provide municipal cover to eight DHA phases, together with 13 slum settlements located in the periphery and Clifton’s blocks 8 and 9.

“It is spread over an area of 51.327 square kilometres, with a swelling population of 0.5 million at present. The Karachi Cantonment is on its north and west, towards the east lies the City District Government Karachi and towards the southern parameter stretches the Arabian Sea.” The DHA had constructed the area and handed it over to the CBC for municipal affairs and tax collection.

Law and order

Police have identified as many as 10 protesters who had disrupted law and order, and incited people to attack the CBC office, according to The News.

“We have so far traced and identified 10 protesters who were themselves attacking the CBC office and were also provoking other protesters,” said South Zone DIG Javed Akbar Riaz.

“Some of the violent protesters have already obtained bail, while raids for arresting other violent protesters who have been identified are likely to be carried out during the night,” he said.

Responding to a question, DIG Riaz said the residents also held a protest on Thursday, but the police neither arrested anyone nor registered an FIR because “the protest was peaceful as compared to the last one, during which a group of people even thrashed security guards and police officials”.

“If someone [a resident] wants to register a case, we’ll do it, if a criminal act has taken place, otherwise the residents can approach the court to claim damages.”

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