ISLAMABAD: About 22,000 members of Islamabad’s Christian community celebrated Christmas with religious fervour here on Sunday.
A Christmas tree, set up and adorned by the Capital Development Authority (CDA), was lit up to commence festivities at the Christmas Bazaar at the G-6 weekly bazaar, near Lal Masjid.
In congruence, a first-ever Christmas Family Gala comprising different stalls, shops, food courts, game shows and rides for children was launched by the civic body at the F-9 park. Special stalls were set up that provided provide daily use items at lower rates.
The Christian community, which comprise over 95% of the downtrodden section of the city, had adorned their homes generously within their available means. Services were held at Khatoon-e- Fatima Catholic Church, Saint Thomas Church (Church of Pakistan), and United Pentecostal Church among others.
In a statement issued by the CDA Directorate of Public Relations, CDA Chairperson Farkhand Iqbal said the Christian community is playing a pivotal role in the development of the Federal Capital and deserves laurels for its services.
But amid celebrations, there were feelings of discontent among the Christian community.
Residents of Faisal Colony, France Colony F-7/4, 100 quarters colony, 66 Colony, Hansa Colony, J Salik Colony and Esa Nagri complained of insanitary conditions in their localities. They said that the civic body has not even set up filtration plants in their areas to provide them safe drinking water.
A local, W Daleep lamented, “We serve our countrymen on Eid and during national holidays but when it comes to our celebration we are forced to work even on Christmas.” He urged the government to ensure at least two holidays on Christmas.
A minorities minister said the government did not distribute welfare funds among poor Christian families due to financial shortages after devolution of minorities’ affairs under the 18th Amendment.
Iqbal said that CDA is the only organisation in the country that gives special bonuses to Christian employees on Easter and Christmas and resolves their problems on priority. He said that salaries of the sanitation staff have been increased at par with the other employees in addition to better Basic Pay Scales.
He said that under the Government Policy of Housing for the Poor, CDA has allotted 4,000 plots to dwellers of the Katchi Abadies and another 2,000 allotments are in process under the Modern Urban Shelter Project Programme. The civic body has allotted a plot for establishing a church, the construction of which is underway, he added.
However a senior CDA official said that though the civic body lights up a Christmas tree to add colour to Christmas festivities, “no real steps are being taken for the welfare of the community.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2011.