The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has used the lowest common denominator to justify its slum razing — bigotry. The civic agency, in a reply to the Supreme Court, has claimed that the influx of poor Christians from across the country could lead to ‘demographic problems’. Its suggestions to resolve the slum crisis also include a number of points that may infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens.
The CDA’s typo-laden reply in the katchi abadis case states, “it is necessary to identify the fact that most katchi abadis are under the occupation of the Christian community” and have shifted from across the country and occupied government land so boldly it has been allotted to them and it seems “this pace of occupation of land may affect the Muslim majority of the capital”.
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The reply also states that katchi abadis distort the image of many sectors of the federal capital, making them resemble ugly villages, whereas Islamabad was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
The CDA contends that it is urgently necessary to remove katchi abadis to provide a better environment to the citizens of capital and protect the beauty of Islamabad, while also preventing state land from being stolen.
It also said people who do not believe rule of law are being encouraged by recognition of some katchi abadis, and that this leads to more encroachment of CDA land by encroachers and land grabbers.
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The reply states that these encroachers have occupied land worth billions of rupees and the CDA is not in a position to dispose of this land through auctions to finance development work, adding that funds are also required for the provision of alternate accommodation.
The CDA also accuses some slum residents of acting as slumlords, saying that they build shacks in the slums and then sell or rent them out.
The reply says that the CDA currently has no provisions in its governing ordinance for regulation of illegal settlements, adding that the housing ministry and National Housing Authority, on the direction of the federal government may take measures for the resettlement of squatters, and that this can only be done by allocation of a special budget for the acquisition of land at suitable locations, which need not be within the city limits of the capital.
It also said that there are thousands of low income groups who came from different parts of the country in search of jobs, residing in Rawalpindi in single rooms, and even servant quarters, but they do not encroach government land. Contrary to this, encroachers of CDA land do not care for law or regulation, and if these were allowed to accommodate in Islamabad this may result in create of deprivation among the poor people who are living in Rawalpindi
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The CDA suggests that the federal and provincial governments formulate policies regarding the improvement of economic conditions of villagers in order to discourage rural-urban migration.
It also requested the SC to allow action to be taken against illegal settlements falling in Islamabad’s limits and for illegal occupants to be returned to their hometowns.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2015.