Fisher folk protest against deal to sell islands
* PFF threatens to block port channels if projects not cancelled
KARACHI: Fishermen of Karachi coast on Friday threatened to block the channels of major Karachi Port and Port Bin Qasim if the government did not cancel the deal to hand over twin islands located near Ibrahim Hydri to Bahria Town.
A large number of people from the fishing community, both men and women, staged a protest demonstration, which started at the Sindh Assembly building and culminated at the Karachi Press Club.
The people, hailing from different coastal villages along the 129-kilometre long coastline, also staged a sit-in and demanded the government to realise that these islands are traditional fishing routes to the open sea. Hence, any development may harm their sources of livelihoods.
Chairperson Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Mohamed Ali Shah, Saeed Baloch, Majid Motani, Tahira Ali, Yousif Kadani and Shujauddin Qureshi of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) were leading the procession.
Mohammed Ali Shah said, “We are asking the government to cancel the deal immediately, and take the community people into confidence. In case of delay we will bring hundreds of thousands fishermen to block the ships’ channels of major ports in the protest.”
Government should consult the fisher folk communities prior to awarding any contracts or initiating deals with any international firms or taking any decision regarding the coastal villages, he remarked.
Shah reiterated the demand to ensure basic facilities to the people living in villages, instead of launching such mega projects by destroying their livelihood.
Vice Chairperson of PFF Tahira Ali said, “We have past experiences, when the government had deprived communities of their villages, and blocked sea routes in the name of development.”
Hundreds of families on Gizri are facing threats after the construction of Creek Club and other development projects initiated by Defence Housing Authority. These powerful organisations even do not allow poor fishermen to enter into the sea to catch fish for their livelihood, she said.
The protestors, carrying banners and placards, inscribed with demands, were shouting slogans to fulfil their demands without further delay, and scrap the deal of selling twin islands to Bahria Town.
The real estate tycoon Malik Riaz’s Bahria Town and a US investment group signed a $20 billion memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop Net City, Education City, Health City, Port City and other infrastructure projects on the islands.
President of PFF Majid Motani said the coastal people will show resistance against the deal and the protest rally has just begun to motivate the communities. He said mangroves forests are being cleaned along the coast in the name of urbanisation, putting 20 million citizens at the risk of disasters.
According to Motani, the recent move to hand over twin islands is part of a game, which they will thwart with the power of communities, who mostly depend on the sea for their livelihoods.
The protestors accused PPP-led government of initiating the deal, allowing real estate tycoons to develop the modern city, and push the indigenous people out of their land. There are thick mangroves forests off the Karachi beaches, where hundreds of families have lived for generations. These indigenous communities have never been provided with basic amenities like schools for their children, hospitals and potable water supply.
PFF has designed a strategy to launch phase-wise campaign against the destruction of natural islands in the name of development and it would involve all the fishermen, herders and farmers, residing at the inland waters. In this regard, the organisation has already launched a mobilisation campaign for the communities.