Renowned economist Dr Kaiser Bengali has said that the poor will not get their rights unless they don’t fight for them. He was addressing a token hunger strike in front of the Karachi Press Club to express sodality with those whose livelihood has been destroyed during the recent anti encroachment drive in metropolis. Scores of human rights activists, independent economists and researchers attended the hunger strike. “Due to neo-liberal economic policies the poor are suffering and wealthy are flourishing,” said Bengali. Speaking on the occasion, architect Arif Hasan said the unplanned operation had rendered hundreds of thousands of workers jobless and there was no plan insight to provide any relief to those people. He said that the affected people must be provided alternative employment opportunities and shelters. For this purpose he suggested that people should be consulted in this regard. Dr Riaz Shaikh said that the unemployment rate would further increase due to the ongoing anti-encroachment drive. “People are facing difficulties in finding alternative livelihood opportunities because their businesses are destroyed.” Karamat Ali of PILER said, “The Supreme Court’s order was against the fundamental rights of people. Many shop owners had legal papers; even then their businesses were demolished.” He added, “We don’t support encroachment but this should not be abruptly in such a way that millions of people lose their business and shelters.” He appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to reverse his decision and stop the operation all over the country. “Instead order a mechanism in consultation with victims for systematic removal of encroachments.” Dr Haroon Ahmed said that the Supreme Court should regularise properties in Karachi as witnessed in Islamabad. Human rights defender and activist Naghma Iqtidar, who was one of the organizers of the hunger strike, said that hundreds of shops had been demolished during the recent anti-encroachment drive and most of the affected were poor. She said that thousands of workers had been rendered unemployed. She added that the civil society struggle under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee would continue and future action of course would be announced this week after a larger meeting. “The JAC would also approach political parties to seek their support.” Uzma Noorani of the HRCP said that human right activists were with the affected people. She said it was a grave violation of human rights that the Supreme Court was not providing a relief to people while ordering removal of encroachments. Researcher Iffat Ara said that economic activities had suffered a lot due to anti-encroachment drive. Jibran Nasir, an advocate, demanded the Supreme Court to constitute an independent commission to look into the matter on humanitarian grounds and provide compensation to the affected people. Nasir Mansoor of National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) asked workers to get united to launch a unified movement for their rights. Zahid Farooq said victims of Karachi Circular Railways should be provided alternative residences and compensation amount. Published in Daily Times, January 14th 2019.