The cracks exposed on handmade mud homes were an indication of fragile construction. To protect the vulnerable base from further damage, layers of material used for the rooftop are essential to keep them from collapsing.
The frame of the roof top is made of frail branches coated with grass, mud, plastic sheets, and on Tuesday, topped with children holding sticks.
But the children were not there to keep the roof together. They were there to keep the homes from ‘unnaturally’ falling apart.
For the residents if I-11 kachi abadi, a 10:00 am wakeup call came in the form of the gurgling sound of bulldozers accompanied by police vans and ear-piercing sirens. It was a moment the residents were dreading. Carrying sticks and stones, hundreds chanted slogans against the authorities.
While the elders were effective with their verbal abuse, children stood on top of the roofs, holding sticks and guarding their homes from being bulldozed.
The sprawling I-11 kachi basti has been under the Capital Development Authority eye for a while now; having issued multiple eviction notices to people living here, the authorities may have been testing the water before a final drive. With roadwork as the pretext, they dug up a patch at the fringes of the Kachi Abbdi without damaging any homes.
Speaking to The Express Tribune CDA Enforcement Director Muhammad Iqbal said that the I-11/1 roadwork was pending and has finally begun today. He said the road starts where the Afghan Basti ends.
While assuring that no operation was conducted against the Afghan Basti, Iqbal said that a total of 25 stalls and 5 rooms that had illegally encroached land in Sabzi Mandi were demolished for the construction of the road, but no homes in the Afghan basti were damaged.
Incidentally, the slum’s population is 95% Pakistani, mostly Pashtun, while the other five per cent are Afghan refugees, according to CDA records. Speaking to The Express Tribune, All Pakistan Alliance for Kachi Abadis Information Secretary Ammar Rashid said the reaction of the residents was genuine concern after they saw bulldozers drive up to their homes.
Rashid said that the construction of the road is considered a threat by those living there. With fewer police officials on site, a ‘reaction’ by hundreds of residents would have not been manageable for the CDA, he explained. “This is their traditional way of conducting operations, where they take residents by surprise,” said Iqbal.
He further explained that the residents have been given notices but no alternate home schemes have been provided by the government for these people, adding that according to the National Housing Policy 2001, there can be no eviction without resettlement.
Iqbal said the CDA has been issuing notices to whomever they feel the need to, including legal slums in F-6 and F-7.
The interior ministry’s pressure and claims that these bastis are harboring terrorists is another example of their convenience. “Collective punishment won’t solve the problem of terrorism,” he said. “This [illegal slum] issue can be resolved as many of them are willing to move if a viable alternative is offered,” he added.
With additional reporting by Danish Hussain
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2014.