The ongoing controversy between the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Indus Heritage Trust (IHT) is badly affecting poor artisans gathered at the Art and Craft Village.
On Thursday, CDA shut down the village and showed the door to around 30 artisans that were invited to display their work. A large number of artisans told The Express Tribune that they held CDA and IHT responsible for their suffering.
A few days back, a man challenged the agreement between CDA and IHT in a lower court. The court, in its orders, asked CDA to “maintain the status quo”.
The law directorate of the civic body interpreted that the court’s orders required CDA to immediately cease all kind of operations in the village.
On the other hand, lawyers of IHT said the status quo did not mean that the ongoing operations be shut down. Instead it prohibits any future plans till the court gives a final verdict on the case. However, following the suggestions of its law directorate, CDA served notices to IHT that if the village was not shut down then they will file for contempt of court.
Siddiqa Malik, Chairperson of IHT, told The Express Tribune that the trust offered CDA to renew their agreement time and again, but it was not accepted. Earlier, Chairperson CDA Imtiaz Inayat Elahi was optimistic that an agreement could be reached between the two parties. Nothing happened.
“CDA never showed willingness to negotiate and resolve the issue,” she said, adding that the abrupt stoppage of the village activities was not the way to end such a project. We had given CDA a one-year plan but they did not raise any objections earlier,” Malik said.
Member Environment of CDA told The Express Tribune that it was necessary to implement the court’s orders. He said that artisans were informed on time regarding this development. Responding to a question, the official said that the affected artisans were personal guests of Siddiqa Malik, and had come from Balochistan to perform at a wedding ceremony.
Malik, however, rejected this statement and said they were invited to perform at Lok Virsa and the Art and Craft Village.
“Yes these artisans were asked to [be a part of my son’s wedding] but they did not come exclusively for it,” she added.
Meanwhile, it is the artisans, perched outside the village, that continue to bear the brunt of this controversy.
Gulzar, 17, reached Islamabad from Sukkur (Sindh) along with his sister to sell their hand-made shawls and chaadars.
Another artisan, Zareena Bibi from Multan, said, “The unfavorable situation has been created due to the negligence of CDA and IHT.”
She also complained about the substandard food offered to them.
Kalsoom Akhtar, a representative of SUNGI Foundation that invited the artisans, said when they found out about the substandard meals, they made alternate arrangements for them.
Last year, while addressing the soft opening of the village, the CDA chairperson had said that it was the first “successful” public private joint venture.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2011.
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