Corruption and gentrification are bulldozing traditional villages in Pakistan

Bahria Town mini golf. Source: Bahria Town website.
Bahria Town mini golf. Source: Bahria Town website.

Traditional villages of Pakistan’s Sindh region are facing a development onslaught from a web of business interests that bend, distort, and break laws to expand a luxury residential district.

The high-end Bahria Town development project sprawls out along a major superhighway leading out of Karachi, a megalopolis with a population of 20 million.

The development is marketed as a suburban refuge offering “soft grass and pure class” for urbanites looking to escape the pollution and congestion of the huge Pakistani city.

Bahria Town website advertisement.

Luxury, destruction, evidence of corruption

According to a report in Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper published in English, Bahria Town’s growth is backed by a complex network of apparently corrupted government officials, private capital and old-fashioned feudal leaders, who have conspired to buy up and consolidate villages (called goths) and subsistence farmlands.

The real-estate boom also comes at the expense limited water supplies for the vast city nearby, and paves over the vegetation and wildlife of the fragile desert environment.

Karachi goth (traditional village) at sunset. Photo credit: Qbaloch99/Wikimedia Commons

Even ancient tombs and other cultural sites are bulldozed indiscriminately.

In a story that would be familiar nearly anywhere in the world, the mostly impoverished residents of traditional Pakistani villages don’t have secure land titles, making them all the more vulnerable to gentrification.

Lawsuits and fines

In a measure of the high stakes around the real estate project, Malik Riaz, the real-estate and construction tycoon behind Bahria Town, filed a US$31.8 billion defamation suit against “Pakistan’s leading English newspaper” demanding an ‘unconditional apology for having run a false report in an attempt to tarnish Asia’s largest private real estate developer’s reputation and business.”

Malik Riaz in 2016. Photo credit: EAhmadNawaz/Wikimedia Commons

None of the regional newspapers that reported on the defamation suit specifically named Dawn as the target.

Riaz and Bahria Town have been fined almost $3 billion by Pakistan’s supreme court for illegally acquiring thousands of acres of land around Karachi for the project.

Sources: Dawn, Dunya News, The Tribune Express, Wikipedia

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