ISLAMABAD: Around three years after the civic authority had launched a massive crackdown to evict residents of a large slum in the capital, the elected councillors have called for taking measures to stop the spiralling growth of other slums in the city.
The Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) met at the Pak-China Friendship Centre on Friday for its twentieth session. The session was chaired by Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz.
Members stressed on the need to curtail the expansion of the existing 10 katchi abadies in the capital.
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They further suggested that these settlements served as hideouts for criminals members of the drug mafia.
A minority member in the house protested at this suggestion, terming it akin to profiling and discrimination.
“I accept that drugs are being supplied to the city from these slums,” conceded Sharif Masih, as he shot back, “But who are the consumers of these drugs?”
Noting that it had struck the wrong chord, the mayor quickly sought to assuage Masih’s fears, explaining that the observation made on the floor of the house was of a generic nature and not directed at any specific religious group.
“As a first step, we need to stop the expansion of these abadies instead of thinking about uprooting them,” he added.
Opposition leader in the IMC Ali Awan suggested that the IMC should take the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) on board to use geotagging technology to map and track the expansion of katchi abadis.
The House unanimously agreed that practical steps should be taken to curtail the growth of these katchi abadies.
Curiously, last month, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) was mulling plans to accord land rights to ‘eligible’ and bonafide dwellers of the capital’s slums
The house also approved a new policy on beautification and uplifting of parks, greenbelts and roundabouts.
Under the new policy, the cash-strapped IMC will allow multinational companies to take over these areas and upgrade them as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) measures.
The policy spells the rules for multinational and national companies to take “ownership” of these places so that residents of the city be provided with improved facilities.
Aziz explained that the main objective of this policy step was to enhance the beauty of the federal capital by elevating these facilities.
During the session, a report of the IMC committee on property tax and water charges was also tabled.
The house decided that taxes collected from the rural areas of the Islamabad must be consolidated so that better facilities can be provided to residents.
Reviewing suggestions made in the committee’s reports and those from members, Aziz decided to constitute a committee of the house which will submit its recommendations on the collection of taxes from the rural areas of the city.
However, the house could now finalise rates of property tax including mutation fee, toll tax and the IMC committee has been tasked to prepare comprehensive recommendations in this regard and for enhancing water conservancy charges and to submit them in next meeting.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader IMC Ali Awan pointed out that there are rumours of handing over projects without fulfilling legal formalities.
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“A project worth of around Rs2 billion was awarded to a private firm for upgrading the F-9 Park in 2008, but contractor only spent a few million,” he said while alleging, “According to my information, the payment for the project is continuing to the contractor who is a defaulter.”
Aziz took notice of the matter asked the F-9 Park director to submit a detailed report in this regard.
At the end of the session, Awan told the house about an amendment in the Local Government Bill by the National Assembly Standing Committee.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2018.