If the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has plans to fill the crater and repair the road and infrastructure in CID SSP Chaudhry Aslam Khan’s neighbourhood after the bomb blast, the phase VIII residents on the street haven’t heard about them.
On Monday, Khan’s house was attacked by a vehicle carrying 300 kilogrammes of explosives, resulting in the loss of eight lives. The collateral damage includes broken windows, furniture, portions of houses blown off and damage to vehicles.
Who is responsible for these repairs and how are the authorities planning to help out? The answer to these questions has caused a great deal off anxiety among the residents of the area.
DHA seems to be washing its hands of the issue, saying the damage caused and the onus of its repairs does not fall within its ambit. When asked for an explanation, a senior member of the housing authority said, “We do not just give out any such information to the public.”
On the other hand, a senior member of the Clifton Cantonment Board (CBC), Aziz Suharwardy, was more forthcoming with suggestions and solutions. “Nothing should be left in the balance and we urge the residents to come to us in an organised fashion so that we can work together towards some sort of damage control.” Suharwardy also suggested tapping into the tax revenue generated by residents and schools of the area to be used for the restoration.
However, the CBC member was insistent that the restoration had to be a team effort. “We lack activists in our societies, we are willing to help but we cannot individually assess the damages until and unless residents take the initiative and cooperate with us,” he said. Though DHA does not come under the purview of the CBC, Suharwardy insists the body would be willing to go out of its way to help if, “Residents create a petition and bring it to us. This will help give us more direction in regard to what action(s) need to be taken.”
There was no mistaking the self-help message he was conveying. “People tend to complain about things from within their homes and compare our society to western ones,” he said. “If comparisons are to be made, then it is safe to say that people in the West are more active about their struggles. One cannot stay at home and expect problems to be solved.”
In particular, the irregular electric and water supply due to damaged wiring and pipelines that has exacerbated their residents’ frustration. Salma Muneer lives no farther than 150 yards from the bomb site. The water and power shortage which was always present now seems to be unfixable. “We have been suffering due to a shortage of water and electricity for many years,” she said while getting into a car that would take her to her relatives in Mohammed Ali Housing Society, halfway across town. “Authorities in the area never go through with their promises and it all comes down to lots of statements but never any actions.” Some residents have just decided that a change of address is their only solution. Huma Baig plans on moving homes after the attack. “Who will guarantee this won’t happen again?” she says. Baig estimates a bill of at least Rs400,000 for the damage caused to her house. “The government has announced that it is repairing SSP Khan’s house but what about other residents who have suffered as well?”
She isn’t the only one thinking of moving. At least 10 other families in the area are mulling this option as well. A family requesting anonymity claimed that while they were asleep on September 20, the day after the attack, their home was invaded by thieves who entered through their broken window after initially gaining access from the roof. “They stole our jewellery and television even though security officials sent by DHA were supposedly patrolling the area,” a member of the family said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2011.
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