First of many: Civic agency deprives 12 families of shelter

Authorities begin anti-encroachment operation against katchi abadis


Danish Hussain July 22, 2015
Around two dozen Rangers personnel took part in the operation in H-10 which concluded peacefully. PHOTOS: INP

ISLAMABAD:


Hukam Khan was at his workplace in Sector I-9 when his son called him saying authorities were literally at their doorstep ready to bulldoze the place they called home.


Khan’s family was one of 12 families whose houses were razed to the ground by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) during the first day of the ‘mega operation’ on Wednesday.

The enforcement staff of the capital’s civic agency, backed by paramilitary troops, carried out the operation.

A father of three, Khan, 37, had been residing in the settlement in Sector H-10 for 30 years.

After receiving the phone call from his son, Khan, a driver at an industrial unit, took an hour to reach home only to see his mud and wood house buried in a pile of rubble.

With furniture, shoes, clothes and other household items lying in the open, Khan felt the earth move away from his feet.

His two sons stood next to the pile of debris that they called home while his wife and daughter were given refuge by a family friend nearby.

“I migrated to this place during Ziaul Haq’s regime in the 80’s from Afghanistan. I was only seven then,” Hukam recalled. This area was totally deserted, he said, pointing towards the now densely populated Sector I-10/2 across the road.

“It seems like the Day of Judgment is drawing near as the poor have no place to live in this city now,” he lamented.

Acknowledging that he did not own the land, Khan said a sense of ownership had nevertheless developed with the place.

Infuriated over the development, he alleged the authorities gave no warning and his family was not even given time to collect their belongings.

Khan’s house was among a group of 12 mud houses located at the rear of a slum known among dwellers as “Basti Muzaffar Khan” — a settlement of around 350 shacks.

On Wednesday, the CDA gave two days to dwellers of that settlement to shift otherwise they would meet Khan’s fate.

Internally displaced persons of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, tribal areas and residents of some parts of Punjab are also living at this settlement along with registered and unregistered Afghan nationals.

Contrary to the on-ground situation, the CDA claimed it demolished 85 illegal houses at the slum on Wednesday.

The operation, which was carried out by officers of CDA, the city administration, police and nearly 25 Rangers personnel, concluded with almost no resistance within an hour and a half.

CDA claimed it had intimated occupants through public notices and announcements in mosques to vacate state land.

The Islamabad High Court-directed operation will be carried out in three phases and oversee demolition of some 42 illegal settlements in the city.

Violation of National Housing Policy 2001

The provisions about katchi abadis mentioned in the National Housing Policy 2001 titled “Housing for All” states that such actions by CDA are illegal.

It states, “Katchi abadis should be offered reasonable alternate sites for relocation before eviction”.

It also provides that provisions of standards of services/utilities being provided in katchi abadis should be improved incrementally. The policy identifies that katchi abadis should be treated on the patron of Sindh model of slums regularisation and cites an example of “Khuda Ki Basti” in Hyderabad where downtrodden inhabitants pay a token amount in very easy instalments and in response the state ensures their right to reside there.

A spokesperson of Awami Workers Party (AWP) said the party had planned a peaceful protest against the “state atrocity against poor” in front of the National Press Club on Thursday (today).

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2015.

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