For over a year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has been directing the government to provide accommodation to homeless people in the country and so far, no concrete policy has been announced to address this grave concern affecting almost one million people in Pakistan.
It all started when the Capital Development Authority (CDA) decided to raze katchi abadis in Sector I-11 back in August 2015, which was followed by heavy resistance from the residents of the area. The issue was taken to court by the Awami Workers Party, in response to which the apex court directed the CDA to stop its drive against this shantytown. The court also directed the departments concerned to prepare a policy for providing shelter to the illegal dwellers of Sector I-11 katchi abadi.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court once again directed the government to make arrangements for the provision of accommodation to homeless individuals in Pakistan and also prepare legislation regarding katchi abadis. These katchi abadis exist in almost all major cities of the country and house millions of people, who otherwise can’t afford to buy or construct a home in proper residential areas. Furthermore, almost all of these settlements are also devoid of basic necessities such as proper supply of drinking water, Sui gas, and electricity. They don’t even have a proper sanitation system.
Hearing a case against the demolition of one such settlement recently, the Supreme Court instructed the government to draft a law addressing this issue and submit a report within 15 days. The court also commented that the state is responsible for the provision of shelter to its citizens and directed the government to conduct a population census, which should also include a household census. The court also ordered the authorities concerned to gather data about katchi abadis.
The representatives of the federal government told the court that the government is considering the preparation of legislation for katchi abadis, for which purpose Google mapping of these settlements is underway. The Governments of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Paktunkhwa and Baluchistan, on the other hand, have already devised a framework to prepare legislation regarding katchi abadis.
The apex court also made it clear that it doesn’t encourage development of illegal settlements, but instead wishes to see a permanent solution for these shantytowns. It directed the government to launch low-cost housing schemes and even shelter homes for deserving people on easy terms and conditions. If this is done throughout the country, this will eliminate the need to establish illegal settlements.