ISLAMABAD: A series of meetings that concluded late on Wednesday night participated by representatives of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) adminsitration, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Interior Ministry, decided upon initiation of a full-fledged eviction operation against the informal settlement at Sector I-11 on Thursday (today).
Prior to the launch of the operation all roads leading to Afghan Basti will be closed early in the morning, said an official who attended the meetings.
The operation will be conducted by the Pakistan Rangers, Islamabad Police, officials of security agencies besides enforcement teams of the CDA.
Earlier in the day, strong resistance from residents coupled with infighting between the capital’s civic agency and the administration had resulted in postponement of the eviction drive at Sector I-11.
Who will lead the operation? It was the question that remained unanswered during the last three days despite a number of meetings held between the officials of the Islamabad administration, the CDA and the interior ministry over the issue.
On Wednesday, representatives of the administration and the CDA held a meeting at the chief commissioner’s office to come up with a plan to implement Islamabad High Court orders pertaining to demolition of the slum.
“As far as carrying out the operation is concerned, both agencies passed the buck to each other during the meeting,” said a senior official of the administration wishing not to be named.
The chief commissioner’s office was of the view that it can only provide magisterial cover to the operation and nothing more. While, the CDA officers have demanded sharing of equal responsibility in a bid to avoid taking responsibility of any possible fallout of the operation.
The CDA teams on Wednesday rushed to the area again but owing to ‘insufficient number’ of police personnel, they returned from the site after staying there for several hours.
“Today enforcement wing officials and heavy machinery and other equipment were present on the site but due to non-availability of forces, it [operation] was delayed,” said a senior officer of the civic agency. In his short comment, he said, during that day’s meeting, the CDA insisted that more support be provided to them.
When contacted by The Express Tribune, Chief Commissioner Zulfiqar Haider did not attend call. However, in a text message he said, “The administration will only provide magisterial cover to the operation whenever required.”
Sources in the interior ministry confirmed that Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had taken notice of the infighting between the departments and directed the administration to fully assist the civic agency. However, no official confirmed it on record.
On the other hand, the dwellers and activists organised a huge protest rally for the third consecutive day on Wednesday outside the slum to thwart the eviction drive.
A substantial number of local leaders and activists of the Awami Workers Party (AWP) were also present on the occasion.
The protesting residents even went as far as to invite the CDA officials to hold talks with them to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the ongoing stand-off, but the authorities refused.
“We are talking about the livelihoods of almost 20,000 working people, so we think the authorities have a responsibility to hear our point-of-view before sending in their bulldozers to make us all homeless,” Nasir Khan, an AWP activist and a resident of the slum said.
AWP Islamabad-Rawalpindi chapter’s General Secretary Shehak Sattar said that the Constitution and the prevailing state housing policies guaranteed fundamental right to shelter to every citizen. He said that the government was bound to resettle the residents of the slum in decent housing rather than making them homeless overnight.
“We call on the Supreme Court to urgently take notice of the situation at hand and provide relief to the hapless residents,” he said.
Ammar Rashid, Islamabad information secretary of the AWP, said the party would approach all legal forums to seek justice for the poor people.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2015.