A tale of bulldozers, excavators & livelihoodsArchive
KARACHI: It is quiet now around the stone building of the historic Empress Market. A passenger with a big straw sack leaning by his feet watches as the rickshaw he is inside passes by. It seems like he is seeing the place for the first time after the anti-encroachment drive; his eyes like his mouth are wide open. “Empress Market ki ronak chali gayee [The glamour of Empress Market is no more],” he murmurs to himself while shaking his head.
There is rubble all around and inside as well. Even though you are prepared about what to expect here you wonder if the actual Empress Market building was really so small. The Lunda Bazaar of second-hand clothes and shoes is gone. The fruit and vegetable vendors are nowhere to be found just like the dried fruit, dates, and tea sellers. The pet shops and kite shops have also been bulldozed. Jahangir Park which you couldn’t see from the New M.A. Jinnah Road side is quite easily in sight now from afar, too.
The Empress Market area isn’t an exception.
Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) anti-encroachment drive isn’t sparing anyone who has overstepped boundaries. The shops along Saddar, Regal Chowk, Plaza Market and many other old city areas look like caps with their visors torn off. Most are missing eaves and steps because they had unintentionally, or intentionally, come on to or covered a portion of the pavement. The cleaning up has also resulted in the removal of shop signboards, display windows, doors and lights. Thus many of them have had to get their shop names printed on panaflex which they have then tied above for the time being.