Karachi has a love and hate relationship with rains, which are highly desired in a city that remains thirsty for a large part of the year. Yet when Monsoon rains occur, each resident ends up wishing that they would stop soon given the destruction that they result in. The rains of August 2020 were particularly troubling when the city saw large-scale devastation in the form of urban flooding that they caused.
Arif Hasan, a well known architect, urban planner, social researcher and activist who has been involved and working in Karachi’s development and planning issues since 1968, has written and commented extensively on this issue. According to him, the reasons for Karachi floods are varied and depend significantly on poor planning and lack of infrastructure development such as lack of sewage processing plants in the 1950s. He says that due to poor planning, informal settlements were never provided with sewage lines and therefore they were left with no other option to dispose of sewage than the storm water drains. These drains were subsequently also used for sewage disposal by formal settlements, as well as any new property development projects that grew in Karachi. Therefore, it is neither fair nor accurate to place the blame on the poor, working class or on informal settlements.
Arif Hassan also informs that there are 64 large storm-water drains in the city, locally known as nullahs, along with many other smaller nullahs, in Karachi that drain into the Arabian sea. After the flooding of 2020, the faulty conditions of these nullahs were brought forth, landing the blame on the informal settlements along the Gujjar and Orangi Nullahs for the blockage of drainage system, leading to the orders to remove these settlements.
The removal of informal settlements around Gujjar Nullah had been ongoing since 2016 and according to Abid Asghar, resident of the area and affectee of the removal, the few homes that were near the nullah were cleared at that time only, while compensation for those was never provided. After the torrential rains in August 2020, a fresh directive was issued by the Supreme Court to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) to clear what they termed as “encroachments” on the storm water drains in the city. Gujjar and Orangi Nullahs, and a few other nullahs around which working class settlements had grown, came under the over-exuberant hands of the KMC again, who started demolition work almost a week after the rains had subsided.
Recent reports have recalled that the residents who lived some considerable distance away from the nullahs were given very little time to pack up all their belongings and leave before the KMC vehicles began demolishing their houses. The reason was supposedly to build 30ft wide roads on either side of the nullahs, which was not needed in any way to solve the issue of flooding. This demolition activity continued during the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as religious festivities of Holi for Hindus, Easter for Christians and Eid-ul-Fitr for Muslims during 2021.
Shazia Hasan, a writer at Dawn, says in her article, that there was no word on the encroachments by DHA that also block the mouth of the drains. Arif Hasan has also explained that the Government of Sindh has constructed car parking facilities, offices, and hostels on the nullahs, and even part of the registry of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Dr. Nausheen Anwar, a Professor of City and Regional Planning at Institute of Business Administration (IBA) and Director of Karachi Urban Labs, stated that, “It is much more convenient to destroy poor people’s homes than to sit and plan properly.” It is clear enough that encroachments by rich housing societies also restrict the flow of water to the sea, yet it is only the informal settlements belonging to lower income groups that are singled out for displacement.
These demolitions have caused large-scale displacements without providing any adequate rehabilitations to the affectees. This is not an isolated or the first incident of its kind as Karachi has been shaped by many such policies which divide it on the basis of communities and their socio economic status, resulting in a fragmented city that often only benefits the rich while poor continue to suffer.
The making of a digital movement
Leftist political activism needs to address the right to transform and challenge the direction in which a city has been moving, and that is the basis for Karachi Bachao Tehreek (KBT), which translates to “Save Karachi Movement”, for which the movement has created a significant digital activism presence that has and continues to highlight the voices of the affected and works to demand justice for those who have been constantly neglected.
Maazah Muhammad Ali, one of the co-authors of this article, and KBT member, says, “From time to time, I would hear news of this or that land in Karachi being encroached upon by real estate developers and civil society trying to obtain stay orders, but very little would make it to the media, let alone get extensive coverage.” She adds that she joined the growing volunteer group when a call for volunteers was posted on KBT’s Twitter, at a time when she was vaguely aware of land issues but did not have extensive information to take any meaningful actions. Maazah shares, “During an introductory meeting in [April, 2021], I learned what was happening on ground with the demolition activities around Gujjar and Orangi Nullahs. The learning and experience in organising I have received was and continues to be very valuable to me as a leftist concerned about the city I live in and I am very grateful to all its founding members and organisers for that.”
Maazah further adds that online spaces led her towards becoming a part of grassroots activism, “an opportunity that would not have been as readily available to me, because it is difficult to be a woman and have free access to spaces of protest and loitering in a city like Karachi.”
Atiya Abbas, the second co-author of the article, and a member of KBT, attributes her politicisation to online activism. She says, “As a child of the internet, I learned how to decolonise my feminism on the Internet. The work of disseminating information online is akin to a full-time job for me. Keeping track of Whatsapp groups, collecting information, making posts for social media, proof-reading, making sure the information is correct, writing captions for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – ensuring that they fit the technical limitations of each platform and then posting online, all require a certain level of commitment that usually a full-time job demands.”
Ilma Zuberi, one of the main content creators on the Karachi Bachao Tehreek (KBT) social media team, echoes Atiya’s sentiments. She says, “The media is not reporting these issues. We literally have to act as reporters and react to information on the day of, and take out posts on the day of as if we are reporting the incidents as they happen.”
But it is a double-edged sword; Pakistan and online spaces have a tenuous relationship partly because we suffer from periods of digital censorship, limited digital literacy, affordability of the internet and smartphones, and frequent disruptions to power supply that hinder access to the internet for many people in the country. There are also concerns of how much activism can occur online and how legitimate it is. Suggestions have been made that on-ground activism has more legitimacy, online runs the risk of being more performative and an echo chamber for like-minded voices agreeing with each other, but doing little to advance the cause.
Ilma says, “We also underestimate the number of people who have access to the Internet but there are whole communities – Urdu Twitter, Sindhi Twitter, for instance – so we really shouldn’t be underestimating how many people there are on the Internet. True, all of Pakistan may not be online, but that doesn’t mean we undervalue those that are there and ignore them in the pursuit of (on-ground) mobilisation.”
Moreover, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which are the primary platforms of campaigning—at least for KBT activism, are owned by capitalist corporations with imperialist interests, and while protests can be amplified on these platforms, as in the case of Palestine, censorship may also occur where these corporations which are driven by profits alone are easily influenced by authoritarian regimes. Social media such as Twitter and Instagram often tend to amplify posts that would cause outrage but lack nuance while also having a short attention cycle, requiring constant content creation to keep the audience interested. All these add to the challenges of digital activism on social media.
Despite all this, online spaces have frequently become part of digital protest that have led to on-ground actions as well. Many movements in the recent past have used digital platforms for protest and organising on the ground, such as Aurat March, Girls at Dhabas, Awami Workers Party (AWP) Islamabad, among others. People often turn to social media when the mainstream media does not cover an issue adequately, or when voices coming from an on-ground protest are not able to rise and reach an audience as was witnessed in the protest against Bahria Town encroachment and subsequent terrorising of farmers, or the recent enforced disappearance of an AWP Sindh activist, Seengar Noonari, and other working class activists and journalists such as Madassir Naaru that receive more attention on Twitter than mainstream media. Talking about the issue and reporting it on social media gains the eyes and coverage of the mainstream media that then leads to notices being taken by the local government. It is increasingly becoming evident that on-ground activism needs online support to sustain it and vice versa, especially as digital access and literacy grows in this country, this important avenue of mobilisation cannot be ignored.
Hafeez Baloch, one of the organisers of the movement against Bahria Town encroachment and also an organiser with KBT, agrees, and says that social media campaigning helped KBT put out intricate details of the matters on public domain that helped clear many misconceptions about the issue that were going around. He adds, “People thought that the houses were illegal, referred to them as encroachments, and assumed that they were built directly on the nullahs and on the land owned by railways. Through social media messaging, KBT was able to clarify that the issue was demolition of working class homes to benefit the rich investors.”
Living in a capitalist society takes up a lot of people’s free time and productivity, and requires engaging in endless and unnecessary grinds, simply to be able to feed their families. In instances where people work full-time capitalist jobs or disabled activists want to participate in political organising, online activism becomes more popular and a valid platform to stand up for rights. This mode becomes relevant also when on-ground activism becomes increasingly dangerous and poses threats of physical violence, or runs the risk of losing momentum and support from people who care about the issue.
Fizza Qureshi, one of the founding organisers of KBT, says, “Essentially you have to get people to care. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, no one is going to listen to you. For example, if you go to the press club to protest all the time, people will stop paying attention to you. As horrible as it sounds, even with a human disaster such as displacements in the cases of Bahria Town, Gujjar Nullah and the likes, you have to be innovative, you have to be creative.”
Moreover, with around 61.43 million Pakistanis using the internet and 46 million active social media users, digital spaces such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook Live, etc. are now seen as sizable emerging spaces where information about social issues is disseminated, protests are lodged, discussions placed in their rightful historical context, and narratives countered.
Aiman Rizvi, another founding organiser of KBT, shares, “I think a considerable number of people have access to the internet, and if anything, the far right really uses that to its advantage. And that’s something that the left really needs to recognise—digital advocacy is often just dismissed as ‘social media posts’, or something that is a waste of time or a matter of privilege—something that doesn’t count as legitimate political work. And that makes me really angry on a personal level because it’s just such an archaic way of understanding politics and legitimacy.” She adds, “The reality is that a lot of narrative wars are fought on social media, a lot of ‘legitimate news’ is made and shared on social media. That’s not to say that digital advocacy doesn’t have very real limits—and it’s important to be aware of those. But digital protests are real, digital support is real, digital mobilising is real—and while it’s not fully accessible, it does have democratising qualities.”
KBT and Digital Activism
According to Fizza, “When we set up the KBT platform at the beginning, the issue with campaigning was in deciding how to communicate the message. We were concerned with conveying this issue to the people who have power, whose voices [are heard] and who can put forward the issue of working class people.”
KBT’s online activism follows the approach of historicising and narrativising, fact checking information around protests, protestors and state’s response, and clarifying incorrect statements made by ministers or mainstream parties regarding the issue of displacement.
The movement set out to historicise and situate working class home demolitions within their context. For instance, several research papers, including one by Arif Hasan published in 2002, explain how Katchi Abadis or informal settlements rose soon after independence in 1947 with Orangi Town being one of the biggest informal settlements in the 1960s. Sindh Katchi Abadi act of 1987 was drafted out of a recognition that a majority of Karachi’s population has been settled in informal settlements, and there was a need to regularise their housing so that public utilities could be provided, and so that these informal settlements would not be removed without providing adequate resettlement and compensation. This regularisation provided renewable 99 year leases to many of the residents of Gujjar and Orangi Nullahs, and where the residents did not possess leases, this was due to the fact that the process was excruciatingly slow and often relied on fees that the residents were not able to afford to pay in one go. Over the past 15 to 20 years, the process of regularisation itself has been abandoned.
Fizza adds that KBT’s social media messaging was geared towards breaking down the details of informal settlements in Karachi, and also to connect it with various other issues. She says, “[We discussed] why is housing a feminist issue; why is housing a disability rights issue; And [we made our messaging] about housing and about equality. I think that [through online mobilising] KBT has been really successful in attracting a lot of people and a lot of interest from powerful people whose voices are heard, in amplifying the message.” She says that online campaigning has really worked in KBT’s mobilisation strategy.
The ongoing campaign’s second approach was to build a strong and coherent narrative around housing through digital activism. The first thing was to dismantle and challenge the state’s and the law’s narrative that people living along Gujjar Nullahs, Orangi Nullahs or Mehmoodabad Nullahs were encroachers.
With the help of the affectees who recorded the ongoing demolitions of their homes, KBT employed a hashtag, #AffecteesNotEncroachers. The aim was to seek to counter the narrative that the working class settlements are encroachments and that the working class people do not belong in the urban spaces. The online campaign built a strong narrative through interviews of affectees, articles, KBT’s report and a survey to show how the working poor were affected, and raised these talking points on various platforms.
The issues of displacement in Gujjar and Orangi Nullahs and encroachment by Bahria Town and DHA City are intricately connected, and show a panoramic view of where the city is heading in terms of ‘development’ right now. Through storytelling and narratives, KBT has tried to highlight the trajectory of this development with the help of social media campaigning. It outlined how this displacement is not a new phenomenon but a long term systematic oppression based on anti-poor policies of several governments as well as the laws that were formulated as a result. Through the internet, more and more people are being connected with the affectees’ struggles, and the campaign’s aim is to bring them on board the long, arduous but worthwhile journey of demanding justice for this city and its people.
A lot of the credit for creating this noise goes to the individuals producing and contributing content, but it is majorly because the internet has allowed the voice to be reached to those the campaign would not have reached through mainstream ways of mobilising for human rights. During various discussions for campaign and digital activism for KBT with members, it was highlighted that online activism has more freedom to be creative, and KBT’s digital mobilisation strategy took advantage of that.
Fizza, one of the KBT organisers, agrees and shares, “KBT was able to attract a lot of volunteers and a lot of younger people, [and] what happened as a result [is that] new voices also got a chance to pitch their creative [and] innovative ideas that had to do with organising and advocacy. For any organising activity, creativity is very important.” She further adds, “I think in this sense KBT’s digital mobilisation strategies have really worked. They give space to newer voices to pitch ideas, and not just newer voices but different kinds of voices. There isn’t one way that is set in stone. For example, someone suggested that we change the wording of the [poster in favour of] Malik Riaz [and Bahria Town], and post them in a subversive way and we did. Traditional organising happens on ground but social media is a new way of organising.”
Social media hashtags as well as digital organising against Bahria Town has at least caused a growing number of online users to be more aware of the issue. It is difficult to calculate the tangible reach of individual posts, but a consistent awareness campaign on the internet against Bahria Town along with the on-ground work of volunteer lawyers resulted in the release of the 156 people who were arrested for protesting the encroachment.
Bahria Town post
Beyond the luxury life style, Bahria Town is providing all the basic necessities to deserving ones. We need to appreciate this effort rather than damaging it.#JusticeForBahriaTown pic.twitter.com/1Mj8GM1Dfn
— Shehar Bano (@ShaharBano_) June 17, 2021
KBT’s Strategies of Online Activism
Twitter storms, WhatsApp groups, Instagram posts and stories were the main strategies used by KBT social media committee. The campaign has a dedicated volunteer-led data collection committee that routinely visits the Gujjar and Orangi Nullahs and carries out surveys and interviews with affectees to document the extent of demolitions.
According to the data collected by KBT, it was estimated that 50,000 people, including 21,000 children, were being made homeless in the demolition of informal settlements around Gujjar and Orangi Nullahs between January 2021 and June 2021. Given the significance of the number and the impact that the disproportionate decision of the authorities had on residents, the campaigners decided to use these stats in the campaign messaging in order to communicate the severity of the impact. This was particularly important to mention right before the Supreme Court hearing on 14 June 2021 as a result of the petition filed by an affectee in Karachi. Through aggressive social media messaging, KBT was also able to mobilise people from all walks of life to attend the hearing, partly through Twitter storms, which it feels had some influence on the Supreme Court’s decision to award rehabilitations, even though the Supreme Court ruled against the affectees and ordered demolitions to continue.
This decision, while disappointing, was not completely surprising; despite the stay order granted and extended by the Sindh High Court, the decisions taken by the Courts against informal settlements of the poor have largely not been favourable in the past. The rehabilitations also have yet to materialise, despite many promises made by the local government.
Strategies for Twitter
For KBT, Twitter hashtags have always been selected with the express purpose to gain attention of people online, and Twitter storms are announced on Twitter and Instagram profiles of KBT some hours before the trending of hashtags starts. For some trends, the engagement has been an upward of 3000 tweets, according to KBT’s figures.
The campaigners maintain a tweet bank where anyone can suggest topics or write drafts for Twitter, breaking down an issue into easily understandable parts that have the potential to get retweets and engagement, as well as gathering several progressive bloggers with large followings to talk about the issue. This allows Twitter to act as a venue of digital protest for several hours, and since many government officials also use Twitter, if a hashtag trends, it is likely to be noticed by them even if they don’t engage with the hashtag. At a time when many people in Pakistan have an online presence, including politicians and government officials, online activism brings the issue to them in a way they cannot ignore.
If the Supreme Court doesn’t rule in favor of Gujjar Nala and Orangi Nala affectees tomorrow, 50,000 people will be left without homes. Out of that number 21,000 are children
— Karachi Bachao Tehreek (@StopEvictionKHI) June 13, 2021
Strategies for Instagram
Instagram posts and stories often also receive engagement and followers from people abroad as well as across Pakistan who are interested in learning more about the issues and in contributing to the campaign. The reach of the Instagram messaging was clear throughout the campaigning period, and was evident when KBT received requests from young people who saw these posts and wanted to be a part of the volunteer groups and were interested in donating.
Faryal, an active member of KBT who joined the movement after engaging with Instagram posts, says, “I first saw KBT social media posts on Instagram last year that were covering and advocating [against the demolition of informal settlements around Gujjar and Orangi Nullahs]. This issue wasn’t reaching mainstream media [as] it’s way too often that those who are from low-income communities are silenced, not believed, manipulated and tossed to the side. This isn’t a poor man’s issue only, this is something everyone should be paying attention to, and stand in solidarity with these communities.” She adds that KBT’s online presence is an example of how the internet can be used for rights-based advocacy. Faryal adds, “KBT [social media platforms] is my main source for updates on demolitions around Gujjar and Orangi Nullah and Bahria Town encroachments as they are on the ground working with and speaking to members of these communities. That’s the kind of digital mobilisation I want to see in this world.”
Amplifying voices of the affected
KBT is working on centering the voices of affectees by amplifying their own content by posting and retweeting media content and updates that they share from the ground, and resharing news coverage that they post or curate from their own accounts. The campaigners made an active decision to make the affectees part of the social media committee and they have full access to Instagram and Twitter handles so they can share content through the campaign’s platforms as and when they think necessary. For them to have a voice of their own in both online and on-ground activism is important, rather than outsiders speaking from their privileged positions, or resorting to exposing too many people’s suffering to social media.
Shiraz, one of the affectees of the demolitions who lives along Gujjar Nullah, says that having a voice through social media helped change the narrative of the legality of the evictions as well as made people question who they are buying their home from. He shares, “Through social media, when videos of protests or violence become viral, governing bodies are forced to take action.”
Zara Khan, another affectee whose one-bedroom house along Gujjar Nullah was demolished, says, “It is the era of social media. After my home was demolished, Shiraz, Shayan and I teamed up to help whoever we could in our community [through social media].” Zara and her friends use WhatsApp groups and Facebook Messenger to connect with other residents along the Nullah. She adds, “Due to our mobilising efforts, happening largely through calls, [online] messages, door-to-door visits, many residents are aware of what is happening.”
Shayan, another affectee along the Gujjar Nullah shared his suggestions for reaching more people online. He says, “I feel that we should make short ads and run them on YouTube,” adding, “Each video plays two ads and each costs Rs. 500 to run per day.” He feels that if people watched these ads, they would learn more about the issue.
In addition, KBT has tried to make sure its posts are accessible to a wide audience by trying to create social media content in both Urdu and English, and where possible, in regional languages like Sindhi. These efforts are still inadequate because of capacity and the fact that everyone gives time as and when they can.
Offline risks as part of online mobilising
However, online protesting brings its fair share of visibility that translates to offline harassment. Zara felt that she was made a target of offline harassment by KMC and police after being more vocal on social media, and for sharing news and videos from the ground of demolition. That is a challenge that still needs to be overcome, to ensure that the affectees have protection from threats and harassment off and online when they garner support for the cause on the internet. Hafeez Baloch, who is advocating against the Bahria Town encroachments, also mentioned that social media is also used by people in power or the people you are fighting against, and “they can also launch a much bigger campaign than you to silence yours.”
Archiving Digital Mobilisation of KBT
Aiman Rizvi, one of the organisers of KBT, points out that laying down the infrastructure of support in online spaces has been something that has not been easy, but now that KBT has that in place, she believes that the organisers can always use it to build on and that has been possible through digital mobilisation.
Fizza Qureshi shares that archiving of movements has been one of the main impacts of digital media mobilisation. She adds, “It is not just important to leave a trail of actions that we have taken which we can refer back to, but it also serves as a very important function for future movements, or movements in other places, which can learn from the successes and failures of KBT’s digital mobilisation efforts.”
Challenges and a glimpse at the future of Online Activism
One concern that is part of a long-term grassroots movement is how to sustain it and that is a challenge digitally as well. Twitter storms are only so effective in spreading the word. Sometimes hashtags get reported by supporters of local mainstream parties who oppose the movement, leading to its failure to trend. Even the enthusiasm and, subsequently, mobilisation tends to wane off; for instance KBT managed to mobilise a huge crowd for the 14th June hearing at the Supreme Court, primarily through social media, but the second hearing on 16th June received much less attention on the internet as well as on ground support. One of the reasons for this lesser attention was burnout and fatigue that is a part of long-term activism, and long-term digital activism is no exception.
Though Fizza highlights an important distinction, “Social media organising and content creation are two different things, so that activists don’t fall into the trap where they have to constantly produce [information], because that leads to burnout, and too much burnout in activists is not a great sign [for the movement].” She adds, “Resistance is pushing against these exploitative systems, and awareness raising and content creation, but resistance is also taking care of yourself.”
Figuring out what works and how to sustain the public’s interest in KBT’s work, is an evolving process and perhaps in the future the movement can employ some more tools and strategies, from Twitter storms to Instagram lives to Question and Answer sessions, or move to more explainer videos in the future to capture more of the slice of attention of the public towards the issue of demolition of people’s homes. The organisers of KBT have also been discussing phonathon events as another tool that they can use in their activism. The constant is to create a vibrant community of activists from all walks of life who work together on social issues.
The affectees of demolition, Zara, Shiraz and Shayan say they want more explainer videos to be made in the long run about the situation. Shayan, one of the affectees, also added that more awareness about Rs. 15,000 cheques that were initially handed out to some affectees, could have been done, since many poor people accepted the checks out of desperation. Many of these cheques later also bounced which meant that a majority of affectees have received very little to no compensation to this date. Perhaps more awareness campaigns on these issues could be run in the future.
One other challenge that the movement faces is whether affectees’ voices are adequately being heard through social media because there is always a danger of some of the organisers gatekeeping and controlling the narrative despite their good intentions.
Aiman who helps organise KBT movement, pointed out, “I think there aren’t enough affectee voices in our digital organising spaces. Those of us who are not affected have ended up in these positions of gatekeeping, and I think we’ve been good about having conversations about power and position, but ultimately we’re making the big calls about how the movement is presented, and that’s definitely a problem. So I think going forward it would be great if we take a step back, and work solely in a supporting capacity, and the main calls about digital advocacy are made by the affectees.”
Manal Yousaf, another content creator in the social media team, agrees. “[The movement is] not perfect, the social media team has a disproportionately high non-affectees to affectees ratio, for one thing. And we have had conversations about the dehumanising and voyeuristic implications of presenting these issues from the lens of loss and tragedy.”
Manal adds that this is the first time she is working in a space where the affectees are leading the organising, “As much as we’re all working on finding a solution to the loss of their homes, this is their issue and it’s their demands that are being vocalised over digital media. You can especially see this on Twitter, as well as the more democratic WhatsApp. And the power of this really carries through to on-ground numbers as well. The Gujjar and Orangi Nullah affectees have gathered in relatively high numbers to protest against the state’s relentless cruelty over and over again.”
Organisers posit that there is also the issue of too many political concerns that are going on at the same time. For example, Palestinian struggle against settler colonialism has been an ongoing issue and many people very rightly protest against that, but fail to connect the issues of settler colonialism happening in Palestine with the issue of settler colonialism by the rich and the state as well as violence towards the poor within our own borders. This selective empathy has led to several uninformed comments by the public on many of the movement’s social media posts, which is something that needs to be addressed and countered going forward.
Online activism is still finding its bearings in Pakistan. Owing to its relative newness, there will possibly be many missteps that will require course correction, and issues that will become much clearer in the future, which can then be improved and worked on in terms of using the internet for social justice. This is hopeful in the sense that perhaps online activism can be used more and more to organise and speak up about working class issues in the future, give the affectees more voice and make them an equal shareholder in their own struggle.
What feels certain is that the digital sphere can be a regular tool in activism and mobilisation in Pakistan, a sentiment that was shared by the organisers of KBT and affectees of demolitions who were interviewed. Manal Yousuf says, “I have noticed people are much likelier to educate others on the fallacy of “anti-encroachment”, and how this is an inherently anti-poor concept. More broadly, the team’s work has been a stepping stone to gaining an audience with the World Bank, which is linked to the evictions through its Project SWEEP, the UN, and with Sindh government officials, though any tangible efforts from the last remain to be seen.”
Fizza Qureshi says, “I hope that we keep being open to innovative ways of doing things because that is the most important ingredient to make movements successful.” She adds, “Everybody serves an important function. Everyone should have the capacity to teach, to pass on their skills to others. If I know something, I teach that skill to four more people and that is how we build new capacities and that is how we grow. This is how more people become politicised. The purpose of a movement has to be that it is independent, that it has a personality and a character of its own.”
It comes as no surprise to any resident of Karachi that navigating Karachi means negotiating with the everyday structural violence carried out on the poor, women, gender and religious minorities. The issue of housing falls under that umbrella, because the issue of housing is more than about concrete structures– it is about privacy, it is about having access to a space of your own, which then gives the marginalised access to schooling, work, disability support, elderly care, and other community building opportunities. Online spaces, despite their serious limitations, can lend more and more residents of Karachi– affectees and non-affectees included, a voice against the unjust demolitions of poor working class homes and connect us together in this sprawling, patched up, difficult to love but also impossible to hate metropolis that many of us call home.
Atiya Abbas is an activist involved with collectives like Girls at Dhabas, Karachi Bachao Tehreek and Aurat March. She is passionate about feminism and envisioning inclusive and safe cities. With a background in journalism and communications she uses both these avenues for activism. // Maazah Muhammad Ali is a writer, researcher and activist with Karachi Bachao Tehreek. She did her Masters in Psychology and Neuroscience. She has worked in science and has a side interest in making science more accessible and fun. She is passionate about stories and people and cities that are centred around people.