Slum evictions: ‘I was born here. How am I not a local?’

Published: July 26, 2015
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Police arrest at least 35 people; slum dwellers, activists decry ‘heavy-handedness’ PHOTO: FILE

Police arrest at least 35 people; slum dwellers, activists decry ‘heavy-handedness’ PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

Pervez Khan is 35. He was born in a slum in Sector I-11. Khan still lives there. He earns a living by the sweat of his brow, moving fruits and vegetables in the nearby Sabzi Mandi market.

Born and bred in the city, Khan is as much a citizen of Islamabad as one could be, but there is a caveat. His ancestry is from Peshawar, and that is enough for the local authorities to push for his eviction. They claim he is not a local.

“I was born here. I grew up here. I work here. They are kicking us out because they say we are not locals. How am I not of this town?” he asks, worrying that the police might pick him up for talking to the media.

Perched on the stoop of the shop he works at, Khan admits that criminal elements do reside in the area. “But they are one per cent of the population. Most of us are good hard working people. Our only sin is poverty.” He added that ‘the big [criminal] fish live in big houses, while small fry live in slums”.

On plot allotments, he said “Yes, the people who were allotted plots have a right to those plots, but we also have a right to a roof over our heads. We don’t want big plots or anything like that, just a place to live.”

When asked about the option of moving to a hypothetical low-income housing development, he opined that locals would happily agree to such a proposal as long as they could easily and affordably get to work from their hypothetical homes.

“We have a legal right to housing from the government,” he said, referring to Article 38-b of the Constitution, which is interpreted to mean that the state shall provide “reasonable” housing for every citizen, along with employment and leisure opportunities.

He added that the men held and arrested were almost all locals or at least Pakistani, and the only border that any of them had crossed was the one separating Punjab from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Where can they go?

Meanwhile, Awami Workers Party (AWP) Islamabad Information Secretary Ammar Rashid told The Express Tribune that the Sabzi Mandi Police detained around 100 residents of the slum in I-11 who were going to work early on Saturday morning.

The AWP leader said residents of the slum were continually being harassed by the local police and were being asked to sign eviction agreements.

He said that the high court decision did not absolve the government from its responsibility to provide shelter to citizens and to make resettlement arrangements prior to evictions.

He noted that there was a shortage of 10 million housing units in the country. “There is next to no public housing scheme in the country for low and middle-income groups.”

He said that around 25,000 people were currently living in the slum, 10-to-12 thousand of them being children. Rashid said that in the absence of alterate arrangements, they would all become homeless. He said three schools were being run in the slum by various non-governmental organizations, and eviction would also leave these children without access to education.

Rashid agreed that anyone involved in any criminal activity must be prosecuted according to the law, while noting that making people homeless would make people more susceptible to criminal elements.

Across the aisle

Meanwhile, at the Sabzi Mandi Police Station, just across the road from the slum, SHO Maqbool Khan said with reluctance that arrests made by police on Saturday were part of “routine activity” against criminals and anti-social and were not linked to the court-ordered eviction drive. He said he could not share any information beyond the fact that they have been booked for loitering and suspicious behaviour.

But a lower-ranked official at the station told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that 35 to 40 people were arrested, processed and shifted to Adiala Jail after orders from Assistant Commissioner Rabia Auranzeb.

Counterpoint

While the cops say the arrests were unrelated, CDA Spokesman Rizwan Sajid said, “It was a joint operation against slum dwellers on courts order. He said a meeting was held among Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and CDA officials on Friday to discuss Saturday’s action.

Advocate Sardar Arshad Anwar explained the legalese, saying that under the clauses in the FIRs, the police may conduct snap checking of pedestrians, vehicles and motorbikes and access their personal records through unstructured supplementary services to address street crimes, but the police exploit this power by arresting law-abiding citizens, mostly slum residents and others from low-income groups.

Meanwhile, as light drizzle began and the area immediately began getting waterlogged, it became more and more difficult to call the squalor in which slum residents are forced to live, based on their limited means and with no assistance from the state, “reasonable”.

*Additional reporting by Hammaad Khan

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Another Indian
    Jul 26, 2015 - 8:47AM

    But Pakistan doesn’t have slums. This is a ploy by Hindu-Jews-US nexus to degrade Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jul 26, 2015 - 9:52AM

    Yes, the criminal elements do not have a place in structured society, which includes the corrupt, especially POLITICIANS. However, all Pakistani CNIC holders have an inviolable right to live anywhere and at anytime within the boundaries of what we call the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. SalamsRecommend

  • Mr. Honest
    Jul 26, 2015 - 2:12PM

    An illegal construction is illegal, be it in F-7 Islamabad or a slum in Islamabad or anywhere, and it should be dealt with accordingly. Is this slum not a headquarter for drug pushers? kidnappers? dacoits? who are playing havoc with the people of twin cities. Almost every other dacoity in Islamabad leads to them. What solution does the author have I want to ask him? We must appreciate and than CDA and the court for this action as it was long over due.Recommend

  • khan
    Jul 26, 2015 - 2:16PM

    @the Skunk
    Just to help you n other people that holdind CNIC doesnt mean you belong to all provinces (weired) yes it is but truen. Balochistan will never issue you local Balochi CNIC, Azad Kashmir n prpbably KPK same. Why? Please ask your beloved local and federal government. But interestinly, people of these provinces are free to settle, buy property, land n business anywhere. Rest assure soon this discremental behaviour soon going to be challenged in Punjab.Recommend

  • Waseem
    Jul 26, 2015 - 3:50PM

    you were borne in a occupied land of state, which is illegal and crime. its time all slums must be removed from capital on urgent basis. Recommend

  • Vaqas
    Jul 26, 2015 - 5:17PM

    @Waseem:
    @Mr. Honest:
    You speak of illegality and the CDA’s good job, but where are the low income housing units that should exist in every sector?
    Nonexistent. Do you think a street cleaner or watchman can afford to live at a long distance from his workplace?
    If the CDA did its job and built low income units in each sector, slums would never have been a problem. This situation is not due to the poor. It is due to the rich who refuse to let low income developments be initiated near their posh houses, despite it being a requirement under the Islamabad Master Plan.
    Perhaps if you went to a slum for Christmas or Eid you would realise this.
    Also, police surveys have shown that crime rates in the slums are mostly the same as other parts of the city, including those without nearby slums. It means criminals live in big houses and slums, its just easier to push the anti-poor narrative of slum dwellers being criminals and junkies.Recommend

  • Atheist_Pakisani
    Jul 26, 2015 - 7:25PM

    This makes me hate CDA over more. their absolute corruption is destroying Islamabad. they do literally NOTHING to take care of the city. All street lights are dead except area where some politician lives, nothing is done regarding overflowing gutters, absolute no pest control by the CDA, large apartment complex being built right NEXT TO open sewers, absolute no street road repair. Sometimes I wonder as a resident of Islamabad, whats the point of organization like CDA when they can’t even do the job they are meant to do? Are they really there just to collect tax and siphon it to the few very executives? Why is not one doing anything about these organization? Where is the check and balance, regulations etc??Recommend

  • faisal
    Jul 26, 2015 - 9:33PM

    I am from Rawalpindi, my ancestors are from pindi too. I can’t offord land in Isb. Why should someone from far away come and occupy land and claim he has a right to live in it? We original pindiites are just 10% of the population of rwp-isb. But at least the bulk came legally.Recommend

  • Waseem
    Jul 27, 2015 - 3:39AM

    Vaqas Sb, CDA’s inefficiency or lack of planning by no means give an excuse to slum dwellers to illegally occupy state land and claim it on top of that.
    Each sector of Islamabad already offers low income housing to accommodate families of low income. But those who were given opportunity to live in CDA housing (both lower and upper level quarters), abused the system. Dwellings which were meant for a family of 5, accommodated 5 more with illegally constructed extensions of the dwellings. Result: overload water and sanitation system, over flow of traffic, over crowded govt schools and extra burden on hospitals. Same is done by slum dwellers. We cannot afford to continue this practice or Islamabad will turn into a city of slums.Recommend

  • Azam Khan
    Jul 27, 2015 - 3:56AM

    @Another Indian:
    Absolutely. Not only that if at all Pakistan wants to create some slums they should ask the experienced Indians to help them out. After all what are good neighbors for.Recommend

  • asm
    Jul 27, 2015 - 9:00AM

    I don’t get it… what author is trying to sell??? I don’t think someone is being evacuated because he or she is from KPK or any other province. Please stop spreading hatred.
    AND ALSO isn’t it the matter of evacuating land from illegal afghan immigrants and sending them back to Afghanistan?? Recommend

  • Optimus
    Jul 27, 2015 - 10:35AM

    I agree with CDA, look at Karachi slums everywhere but no steps taken. we see endless multiple stories concrete structure that actually are a burden on utilities as they do not pay any bills or taxes, These slums are haven for criminals beside cause of daily nuisance to bonafide homeowners nearby. Being poor is not a right to encroach & grab state and personal property in prime localities. I can tell you most of the slum dwellers in Karachi can afford to buy their own home if the state give them access to affordable housing in city outskirts. Hope Karachi learns from CDA.Recommend

  • Naveed Hassan
    Jul 27, 2015 - 3:21PM

    Ah please.

    Can we stop with painting the walls and streets with the haqdaar blood of the jayaalay who were born in the slums of Islamabad and ‘have a right to be there’

    You see the little lawn type thing you have in front of your house, the little place where you grow a hedge?

    Would you be okay if I take a tent and go sit there indefinitely and start making babies?

    If you say yes, this post is over for you. If you, however, still are logical, you’ll realize you won’t be okay.

    I’m not paying taxes, I’m pooping on the road and making it smelly, I’m making babies, I’m tapping into the electricity and gas and not paying for it, I’m making home for harboring fugitives.

    The only reason it’s a slum is because THERE IS NO MORE EFFING SPACE IN THE CITY! There is a reason there are city planning authorities. There is a reason there is a population cap in cities. If you’re THAT emotional about this, invite them all to your house.

    At least that way them staying there makes money for the city. Recommend

  • Emad
    Jul 28, 2015 - 8:09AM

    Being poor doesn’t mean you have a right to grab a piece of land for free, its simply unfair and bring more problems for the normal people (poor/mediocre/rich) who wants to live by the rules. I hope that makes sesnse.Recommend

  • HAQ
    Jul 31, 2015 - 2:45AM

    But where are they going to go? And the people who build their houses near the slums shouldn’t they be scared if the people go to their houses. They have nowhere to go :(. I am worried for PAKISTAN.Recommend

  • Mohammad Faizan Farooq
    Aug 1, 2015 - 12:43AM

    Ah the land of the pure. What beauty it manifests each day. Islamabad has once again shown that its the elite that run the show. The Afghan basti notwithstanding please could the CDA mention how many low income families has it housed over the last 10 years. If anyone should complain its Karachi which doesn’t get any assistance from the govt but houses the poor. The twitterati shall have its time in the sun and move onto greener pastures. Unfortunately that can’t be said for these folks that lost a house today. Shame on the Afghan government as well for dilly dallying in this issue. Take these people back so they can at least live with some dignity instead of being manhandled day in and day out. The politicians are corrupted but after seeing the comments on ET I feel the populace is brutal. Riyasat ho GI Maa key JaisiRecommend

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