Politics of land
The politics of Pakistan essentially boils down to territory. Governments, be they at the federal, provincial or city level, take power and hand out jobs to people who are loyal to them. The tussle in Karachi right now over the local government not being handed the reins of power is a fight over appointments. Competing parties in the city want to be able to place their own people in the police, building commissions and other positions where land can be conveniently given on favourable terms to allies. The Supreme Court has now signalled its intention to try and curb this practice, saying that the government all but hands over maps to land grabbers and invites them to take over what they desire. The court has also said that the state sells off police posts to smooth over any issues with law enforcement.
None of what the Supreme Court said in its statement is untrue. It is widely known that governments in this country use their power to take over land. The problem is that mere statements alone will do nothing to end this practice. It will require enforcement and that power, in a catch 22 situation, lies with the very governments that are grabbing the land in the first place. The issue is not just one of governments taking over empty parcels of land and handing it over to supporters. They are actively kicking out people who are at fault only because they lack the requisite documentation to prove they have been living in an area for generations. It was only recently in Islamabad that the government bulldozed an entire katchi abadi to grab land and, because the police was in its pocket, used it to accuse the residents of sheltering militants. All of this was a pretext for taking over the land. If there is any criticism to be made it is that the court issued only a general statement instead of trying to rectify such travesties of justice. The elected officials-police nexus is strong enough that it will require stronger commitment and a concerted effort to break it.