Katchi abadi dwellers: Evicted, cast out and refused resettlement

Police direct nearby residents not to rent out to evictees

Hundreds of homes once stood at the now levelled I-11 katchi abadi. The site is now fenced and off limits to the public. PHOTO: EBRAHIM UMAR-KHITAB/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: It has been almost a month since the end of a joint eviction drive against the katchi abadi in Sector I-11.

The operation was the first major move against illegal settlers in the city in recent times.

Adding to the case against the illegal residents was the assertion by authorities of the presence of ‘criminal’ elements using the area as shelter and a base of operations.

The area was casually referred to as the ‘Afghan Basti’, a moniker that while disputed, seemed to sum up the general sentiment towards the area for outsiders.

In the build-up to the operation, certain state institutions even implied that the illegal settlement posed a security risk.

Evictee identity

Police officials outside the adjacent Sabzi Mandi Police Station told The Express Tribune that in their estimate, over 65 per cent of the slum residents were Pakistani citizens.

When asked how they concurred on the percentage, the officials claimed to have had intimate knowledge of the colony’s inhabitants, which they said composed of people from Mardan, Swat, Rawalpindi and the surrounding areas.

They said many were Punjabi and some from religious minorities as well.

“We were fully aware of everyone living in the area,” a police officer remarked. The same official, however, said he was unaware of the presence of any criminals in the area.

In the nearby Sabzi Mandi, a sprawling commercial area near the former slum, shopkeepers had a much more clear opinion.

Several stall owners opined that not a single foreigner resided in the area, adding it was possible that lodging was rented to Afghan nationals, but that the home owners themselves were Pakistani.

They claimed the majority of former residents hailed from Bajaur and Mohmand agencies as well as displaced persons from war-torn areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

One stall owner said former military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf had already ordered the eviction of the Afghan population from the area.

Where are they now?

Sabzi Mandi police claim the I-11 evictees have moved to nearby areas such as Tarnol, Fauji Colony near Mandi Morr, Chak Shahzad and so forth. Some are said to have returned to Swat, Mardan and other parts of K-P.

One officer claimed that many evictees had shifted to another ‘Afghan colony’ nearby.

This other settlement exists just off Kashmir Highway, near the Golra roundabout.

A police official from the Shams Colony Police Station, under which the other settlement falls, told The Express Tribune that his station has ensured that residents refuse shelter to the I-11 evictees.

The official said multiple warnings had been issued through announcements at local mosques against renting out to I-11 evictees, and that daily checks were being conducted to ensure compliance.

He added police in Tarnol, Noon, Sangjani and G-11’s Meerabadi were under similar instructions.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2015.


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