Pakistan’s War On the Poor


Protestors clashed with police on Thursday over operations to clear encroachers in Islamabad. Two sides have emerged as those who are calling the issue a question of law and order and those who are calling for sympathy for the poor. However this scene must be viewed in a broader light which is that it is simply the latest battle in our war on the poor of this country.

The evictions taking place in I-11 are affecting the poor whose meager existence is already deplorable. This is not a justification for land encroachment or squatting, but we must ask ourselves how we can justify the eviction of these pathetic souls while we ignore misuse and theft of land by other, more powerful parts of society? Why are we taking action against the poor, but we are not taking action against the powerful like Pakistan Rangers who have been running an illegal construction business in Karachi?

“Permission to Rangers to manufacture blocks was given on request of the then KU security adviser Prof Dr Khalid Iraqi for six months in 2008,” KU External Estate Officer Naeemur Rehman said.

“As the given deadline expired, the then vice chancellor Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui wrote a letter to Rangers high-ups, requesting them to evacuate the varsity land however the Rangers refused to vacate the land,” Rehman maintained.

Why are we outraged about these poor slum dwellers trying to hold on to some basic kind of existence, but Pakistan Army is free to build on 9,000 acres of land that is supposed to be used only for agriculture?

Sadly, this is the state of our society. Those with comfortable middle class lives whine about having to pay too much tax. PMLN’s federal budget is so anti-poor that even political enemies like Asif Zardari and Imran Khan cannot disagree over the obvious facts!

On social media, our middle class Twitterati exposed its true face when it attempted to humiliate the India PM by trending the hashtage #ModiChaeWala showing their arrogant contempt for anyone who works as chae wala. There is no shame to be chae wala. It is shameful to be arrogant.

This war against the poor rears its ugliest head when we stop to notice the anti-poor violence that is so common it has become almost invisible. I am talking about the way that we treat servants in this country. How many times do we let reports of a poor maid who is raped or nearly beaten and nearly slaughtered?

The evictions in Islamabad are not basic issue of law and order. It is not simply who own what land. It is part of a larger pattern of abuse and violence against the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. If we do not speak out against this practices, we become guilty participants ourselves.