The katchi abadis (shantytowns) of Islamabad have been a longstanding issue for the Federal Capital, where the authorities have mostly been concerned about the illegal occupation of expensive city land. Now, these slums are also beginning to act as abodes of drug dealers and criminals, which has alarmed the city’s government even further. The presence of these illegal settlements is a serious security concern for the Federal Capital, and after the Islamabad High Court’s orders, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) finally looks determined to raze them.
According to a survey conducted by Islamabad Police, there are 23 slums in the city housing almost 85,000 people. Out of these, nine are located in areas surrounding Sector I, five near various subsectors of Sector G, and three surround various subsectors of Sector H. The largest of Islamabad’s slums, Muslim Colony, is located near Prime Minister’s Secretariat, and is home to over 15,000 people. Many of these slums are infamous for illicit drug and liquor trade.
While objectively quoting facts about these slums and the threat they pose to important people and places in Islamabad, I feel cruel not sparing a thought for those living in these shabby, muddy structures for years and carving something they can call home within the piles of garbage surrounding them. It may be difficult to arrange accommodation for around 85,000 people, but it is certainly not impossible.
Accommodating these poor and soon-to-be-homeless folks would be an investment, one with which we could win them over for good instead of antagonising them. It seems that no one wants that right now, however. The authorities, instead, find it easier to let loose a very frustrated 85,000 men and women in the capital of Pakistan.
The dwellers of these shantytowns and human rights watchdogs have held their collective ground against the operation to demolish these settlements. They find hard to digest the notion that Islamabad and its ‘valuable’ land is a place meant only for the rich and powerful, with no place for those who fall below a very well-defined criterion of who is important and who is not.
As we speak, CDA officials with ample help from armed police are razing slums near Margalla Town Phase I, G-10/2 and I-10. After the court orders, the residents of these slums have no choice but to watch in dismay as the authorities bulldoze their homes, with the not-so-comforting silver lining that they may be able to salvage something of their belongings from the wreckage once the CDA is done and start a new life somewhere else from scratch. That, however, is not the situation on the ground, where the CDA has faced stiff – often violent – resistance during the operation.
I agree that Islamabad would be prettier without these katchi abadis, and that illegal occupation of land should be discouraged, but then I see this: