Value Extraction from Land and Real Estate in Karachi

The enormous expansion of Karachi since 1947 has also meant the acquiring of land for development. It is important to understand whose land this was, the manner in which it was acquired and its repercussions on the original inhabitants. 

Karachi’s hinterland consisted of over 3,000 small villages. These village communities in almost all cases are pastoral and either Sindhi or Balochi speaking. The 1947 migrants from India, on the other hand, which today form over 45 percent of the population, are Urdu speaking. In addition, the post-Independence migrants also consist of Pushto speakers from the North-West of Pakistan. Under the Land Settlement Policy of the British colonial administration, the land on which the village is located is owned collectively by the village. However, the village pasture lands (mostly desert shrub) are the property of the governments’ provincial Board of Revenue.  This pasture land was leased out on an annual basis to the pastoral clans at a very low rate. The purpose was not to collect revenue from this land but to ensure the loyalty of the clans to the British government by doing them a favour. This land has been (and is still being) acquired for the development of Karachi and developed in three very different ways.

One, the Karachi Improvement Trust and later the KDA acquired the pasture land from the Board of Revenue for the implementation of their various housing and commercial schemes which were part of their master plans. In many cases, the villages were left intact but those that came in the way of large infrastructure projects were relocated. In the acquiring of village land promises of providing jobs at some of the infrastructure locations (especially related to industries and port expansion) were also made to the local population. However, since the local population lacked the necessary skills and political power, these promises were never kept. No compensation or alternative was provided to the village communities at the loss of their pasture lands.

As a result of the acquisition of pasture lands, the rural economy has been devastated and the village communities have lost their means of livelihood. Studies and surveys show that they have much lower social indicators and social and physical infrastructure and upward mobility as compared to the rest of Karachi (Anwar, 2013).    

In addition to the pasture lands, there were also a number of oasis and agricultural belts along the seasonal rivers in the Karachi region. Most of these areas have also been urbanised in spite of the fact that they were marked as protected green areas under the various master plans (Hasan, Abid, 2013). These areas provided a sizeable amount of fruit, milk and vegetable to the city which now depends entirely on importing these from agricultural zones at considerable distance from the city (Anwar, 2013). These lands, have been acquired both by the formal and informal sectors for development purposes. The owners of these lands have made considerable financial gain by selling them to formal and informal developers. What has become of these owners and of the people who worked on these lands has not been adequately studied.

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