ISLAMABAD: Residents of katchi abadis on Thursday protested against the Capital Development Authority (CDA)’s drive against illegal slums across the city.
They gathered outside the National Press Club, demanding their right to shelter. The protesters held placards that read, “Housing schemes for the rich, evictions for the poor?” and “No eviction without resettlement”.
CDA enforcement teams on Wednesday demolished more than 85 illegal houses constructed on green belts between sectors I-9 and H-10.
The protesters came from several katchi abadis in the city and on the outskirts.
“We are demanding recognition of every citizen’s right to shelter. There is a court hearing tomorrow and we are also petitioning the high court against the CDA operation,” said AWP Information Secretary Ammar Rashid. He said the Article 38 of the Constitution guaranteed this.
Fazal Shah, an AWP member, said Islamabad’s working poor had come out on the streets because the city’s authorities had left them with no choice. “We have been termed criminals, terrorists and land mafia simply for the crime of being poor and not being able to afford a decent roof over our heads.
“We are hardworking Pakistanis who have worked for years to build our homes, but they are always trying to snatch them away from us. Do we not have rights like other citizens of this country,” Shah questioned.
He called on the CDA to stop forced evictions and work for a sustainable settlement. AWP Punjab President Aasim Sajjad Akhtar said that if the highest courts in the land ignore the plight of the poor, there is no choice for them but to engage in non-violent civil disobedience against selective application of laws.
“Authorities should work out a housing plan. If you give the people an alternative instead of bulldozing their homes, they would listen to you,” said Akhtar, adding that providing shelter to people was the state’s responsibility.
Addressing the crowd, Rashid said, “They say these abadis are illegal but where will these people go if they cannot live here?”
Where can the poor live in this city? How can they call us illegal residents when the politicians themselves live in mansions acquired with dubious money?”
He said there was no follow-up on promises of low-income housing schemes.
Rights activist Tahira Abdullah said the civic agency had also razed the “Pehli Kiran” charity school.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2015.