RAWALPINDI: As the slum dwellers of Dhok Ali Akbar continue to resist the authority’s efforts to evict them from the land they are encroaching on, 150 of their children have developed pneumonia. The 22 kanals belong to Auqaf Department and the slums built here are illegal encroachments. The gypsy families had vowed to resist efforts to make them vacate the land. However, last week, four children died after the police allegedly uprooted their tents.
Now that authorities disconnected electricity and water supply to the makeshift settlement, 150 children have reportedly fallen sick. Their families insist that they are “too poor to afford treatment”.
On Wednesday, police had visited the area and allegedly baton-charged and tortured many of the locals. At the time MNA Muhammad Hanif Abbasi had insisted that the land was being illegally occupied and that he would have it vacated at all costs.
On Sunday, however, he told The Express Tribune that no further disciplinary action was being taken against the people. He said that one of his friends, Raja Saji, had donated a piece of land near Tarlai area of the capital city for these families. “They are shifting there by their own will,” he claimed.
On the contrary, Muhammad Munir, father of two daughters suffering from pneumonia said, “Today (Sunday) Auqat Department and Town Mucipal Administration (TMA) officials threatened us with consequences if we did not vacate the area within a few hours.”
Aasia Bibi w/o Jameel, told The Express Tribune that she did not have the money to buy medicine for her two-year-old son Ahmad who was suffering from pneumonia. The same was true of 18-month-old Iram Shehzadi, daughter of Shahid, another resident of the slums.
Shama Bibi said that most of the families had been living in the area for the past 35 years. She said that it was not easy for the families to just get up and move since most of them were from far off areas. “No one is ready to hear us, they just want to blame us and make us appear evil,” she said.
Haleema Bibi, a single mother of seven, said that poor people were dying due to the ‘merciless’ conduct of the concerned authorities. She said that locals were not ready to come forward and help others. He daughter Tasleem, is soon to be wed, but that will have to be postponed as the family has gone from organising celebrations to organising survival.
When The Express Tribune originally brought this matter to light, Muhammad Aslam, 30, had given us his version. He now claims that police registered an FIR against him for speaking to this newspaper.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2010.