One of the oldest bus terminal located near historical Lea Market has ‘forcibly’ been evacuated by the City Wardens of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC).
The owners, drivers, conductors and the area residents have been staging protest against the forced evacuation for last two months.
“This is city’s oldest bus terminal,” claimed Dawood Adam, a resident of Lea Market. “The [city] government wants to construct flats and shops for encroachers of Light House,” he blamed.
This was not the first time that the terminal was moved out by the city administration. According to terminal staff, three years ago same situation was created when Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-Pakistan) city mayor, Wasim Akhtar was in power.
“This is time our own Pakistan Peoples Party has kicked us out without giving us any notice,” alleged Sindh-Balochistan Bus Owners Association.’ President Zafar Ali Qureshi. The terminal functions about 20 hours in a day, starting from 4am. Passengers heading to, or coming from Thatta, Sujawal, Badin, Umerkot, and Tharparkar regularly use bus services at the Lea Market terminus. The local communities living in Gaddap, Kathore, Hawke’s Bay also prefer to commute from the same terminal.
“This is not just a passenger terminal,” Adam pointed out. “This terminal facilitates business communities of Khajoor Bazaar and main wholesale market of Karachi,” he added.
Zulekha, a local resident of Lyari, the stronghold of PPP, said that she regularly commutes to Thatta to visit her daughter and other family members. “I have been travelling through these buses since my childhood,” she smiled. “Our family members regularly go to Thatta and Sujawal’s shrine and this is the only terminal that fit us economically and socially,” she added.
A bus driver Naseer Ahmed told The Express Tribune that people living in city’s suburbs were directly connected to Lyari and old city areas through these buses. “These are not only the buses but connect people culturally, socially and economically,” he explained.
The drivers said that apart from regular passengers and shopkeepers people use these buses as ambulances for their sick relatives. “All major hospitals of the city are very near to Lea Market,” Adam said.
The terminal staff informed that the law enforcement agencies arrived at the site and started moving all standing buses to other side of the road and blocked the whole area. Over a dozen of City Wardens have been deployed to keep the buses away while large cemented blocks have been placed at the site.
Read More: Bus terminals to be moved outside city
Terminal staff has also placed banners at different points, demanding Sindh government to allow their buses smoothly continue their operation. “Roughly 5,000 families will directly suffer from the current shifting of the terminal,” Adam said.
The staff not sure enough alleged that the city government was planning to construct flats and shops for encroachers of Light House.
“Encroachers are being given our land,” Qureshi alleged. “This is unfair. We will not allow government to allocate our land to encroachers,” he said, adding that the area residents and business community was also unhappy with government’s policies.
Commenting over government’s claim of illegal occupation over the terminal’s plot, Adam said that over 100 shopkeepers have already occupied historical market – Lea Market – for last over 20 years. “Why the government is reluctant to kick encroachers out from the market,” he questioned. Replying to a question, Qureshi said that the staff and owners of the buses were not ready to go to an alternate place. “We will march towards Chief Minister Houses in case not given our terminal back,” he warned.
Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab said that the plot where the bus terminal was set up was the commercial property of the KMC. “It’s a declared commercial property,” he said. “The terminal is illegal,” he added.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Wahab said that the KMC planned to construct shops on the plot where the bus terminal was operating. He said that on the orders of Supreme Court the shopkeepers displaced from other parts of the city, including Light House, will be accommodated. “KMC will not give ownership rights of the shops to the relocated shopkepers, they will remain tenants of the corporation” he clarified but, he added, KMC will sign tenancy with the shopkeepers.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2021.