Those affected by the I-11 katchi abadi operation must be identified and provided adequate alternative housing. Any drive against the slum residents should not adversely affect their livelihood in line with relevant section of the National Housing Policy of 2001 and the rights under the Constitution.
The recommendation made is among a list of proposals in a report that was submitted to the Supreme Court (SC) by the Law and Justice Commission Secretary Mohammad Sarwar Khan on September 5.
The present report was submitted in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court on August 31.
The report asks the SC to reaffirm the right to dignified housing for all citizens of the country.
It further underlines that the court may reaffirm that the state is under a continuing constitutional obligation to take immediate and effective steps for realising the promise of dignified housing made for all citizens by the Constitution.
Furthermore, the proposals in the report call for legislation for the katchi abadis, similar to the statutes already in place at the level of the provinces, to be promulgated at the federal level.
The report outlines that the cut-off dates and the minimum community sizes set out in the provincial kachi abadi acts and various provincial policies are “arbitrary” and devoid of any “cogent and rational justification”.
It asks for a judicial review of these cut-off dates and minimum community size in order to ensure that they are compliant with the constitutional right to shelter.
Capital Development Authority, the report states, must be directed to implement and frame rules to carry out the objectives of the National Housing Policy of 2001, particularly its chapter dealing with the katchi abadis that is the National Katchi Abadi Policy of 2001; and the Cabinet Division of 1997 on the katchi abadis of Islamabad.
The authority may be directed not to evict katchi abadi residents without first providing them alternative housing at suitable locations that does not disrupt their access to current means of livelihood.
It highlights directives to be issued to the Pakistan Housing Authority to produce records about whatever progress it has made in pursuance of its objects and its phase-wise future plans for enforcing the fundamental right of shelter of low-income citizens, complete with housing unit numbers, broken down into various categories including “low-income housing” and “social housing” and provide timelines for completion of construction.
The report says the regulators of housing societies are to ensure that all such societies make adequate provision for low-income groups and destitute persons.
Subsequently, all housing societies which have failed to comply with this constitutional imperative must be penalised for violation and no such societies should be allowed in the future.
Calling the five per cent allocation for the destitute in the Islamabad Land Disposal Regulations ‘far too small’, when seen in the light of the federal government’s own figures of the numbers of slum-dwellers in the country, the report demands a judicial review.
For this reason, the quota must be ensured and the land thus allocated be used in a well-planned manner.
Moreover, if the Cooperative Society Act needs to be amended for this purpose, or if the ICT Administration needs to make regulations for this purpose, this must be done urgently.
The report concludes by saying that rules and regulations should also be applied without discrimination to private mega-developers.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2015.