ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers condemned on Friday what they called the government’s “bulldozer approach” against capital city’s largest illegal slum – Afghan Basti in Sector I-11/1 — and demanded an inquiry into the clean-up operation.
Although the government’s spokesperson assured the lower house that an inquiry would be conducted into the incident and findings shared with the lawmakers, the ruling party’s lawmakers, including Speaker National Deputy Assembly Javed Murtaza Abbasi, insisted that the action was lawful.
Abbasi, who was chairing the session, argued that qabza (encroachment) cannot be allowed in the name of human rights.
The Enforcement Directorate of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) said near 150 illegally-constructed houses were demolished using a fleet of bulldozers and other heavy machinery in the first phase of the operation on Thursday .
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s MNA Tahira Aurangzeb told the house that action has been taken against illegal occupants who possessed heavy ammunition and drug in their illegally built rooms.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) MNA Abdul Qahar called her out on this point, questioning why the police failed to recover the drugs?
Censuring the government over its ‘dual policy’, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson Dr Shireen Mazari said the action was only being taken against the poor and homeless, while the government was reluctant to demolish encroachments by the elite of the city in posh sectors and agro farms.
“A majority of these dwellers hail from militancy-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and it is shameful that the government is calling them refugees, drug mafia, criminals and terrorists,” Jamaat-e-Isalmi (JI)’s Sahibzada Tariqullah said.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Sajid Ahmad backed the government’s stance and demanded that a similar operation be launched in Karachi’s Afghan bastis. He also pointed out that many Taliban leaders had been apprehended from these areas in the past.
As per reports, the administration had initially offered the slum dwellers an option to voluntarily vacate some 230 plots which were allotted to individuals some 25 years ago but were never handed over to their actual allottees due to the presence of squatters.
Upon refusal, however, police and civic agency officials took action and started the operation.
Meanwhile, slum dwellers rejected Inspector General of the Islamabad Police Tahir Alam Khan’s claim that they were asked to voluntarily leave the area three days ago, saying they did not have have enough time to remove valuables from their houses.
In 1985, the government allowed nearly 400 Afghan refugees to settle along a seasonal stream passing through the area. With the passage of time, the slum grew, mostly through internally displaced persons from K-P and internal migrants from Punjab. A UNHCR survey, carried out in 2013, estimated that over 8,000 people live in the slum.
The Afghan Basti was previously cleared in 2005 after a massive eviction operation carried out by the CDA and the ICT Administration on court orders but it was back up and running by 2007.