The Capital Development Authority (CDA) continued its operation against the illegal slum in Sector I-11 on Friday, razing another 500 houses.
Unlike Thursday, the authorities faced no resistance from slum dwellers on the second day. Many residents chose to disassemble their houses themselves in a bid to recover re-useable building materials, doors, and windows.
The operation started at 10am and continued till 7pm.
CDA spokesperson Ramzan Sajid said 60 per cent of I-11/1 and 40 per cent of I-11/4 had been cleared by the evening. He said the operation could last three to four days. The spokesperson said 90 per cent of the slum dwellers had already moved out and taken their belongings with them.
Sajid said around 500 illegally-built houses were demolished on Friday. He said the operation will continue till the last illegal structure in the slum is removed.
Sajid said that on second day of the operation, some 500 illegally constructed structures in the slum had been demolished, adding that the operation will continue today (Saturday) and till the demolition of the last illegal structure in the area.
CDA Chairman Maroof Afzal, who visited the site on Friday morning, said the recovered plots would soon be handed over to more than 400 owners. He said the slum dwellers were asked to vacate the area a number of times prior to the operation.
No back-up plan
Families being evicted from the illegal slum in Sector I-11 are taking refuge in other informal settlements around Islamabad.
A senior Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration official, while asking not to be named, said the police had reported that slum-dwellers being evicted from I-11 katchi abadi are moving to similar settlements in Tarnol, Chakri, Taxila, and Rawat.
“Authorities had only planned the execution of the operation and did not work out where to shift the families that would be displaced,” he said.
He said there was no direction from the Interior Ministry or any other government department on how to handle the influx of people in slums across Islamabad.
Lal Habib, 20, is from Bajur Agency. He is one the people whose homes were razed. Shifting his belongings into a van on Friday, he said he was relocating to an irregular slum near Tarnol.
“I shifted my family there yesterday. Now I am moving furniture and other things,” Habib said, adding that the family would stay with a relative while they built their own house there.
Ghulam Nabi, 55, is from Mardan. He said a number of families who had relatives in nearby slums were shifting there. “I think only the families that have no relatives in Islamabad or Rawalpindi will move back to their hometowns,” Nabi said, adding he had completed arrangements to shift his family to a slum in Sector I-10/4. “We cannot move far from this area because we work in the fruit and vegetable market (Sabzi Mandi),” he said.
A wedding put on hold
The Afghan Basti, as the I-11 slum was commonly known, was full of life until only two days ago. Now, it looks as if the area has been bombarded.
Heaps of debris of the destroyed mud-houses paints a painful picture of how the occupants left. Houses of nearly 8,000 individuals have been levelled to the ground.
Every resident has a story to tell.
19-year-old Yasir Khan, who hailed from Mardan, was collecting belongings from his house. Friday, he said, was his wedding day. His hands were covered in henna designs and his white clothes had almost turned yellow due to the dust.
“I was supposed to be with my bride tonight,” Khan said. He said the family asked the authorities for sometime for the wedding function but to no avail. Khan’s family was supposed to travel to another slum in Tarnol area to bring Khan’s bride. The wedding has been postponed until the family finds another shelter.
“What was supposed to be the happiest day for me is now the greatest tragedy of my life,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2015.