ISLAMABAD: Mohammad Shabbir, a shopkeeper in the Muslim Colony slum of the capital, says the prices of houses in the settlement have been going up.
However, he expects a slump from next week when the dwellers will be served with notices by the civic agency.
The Islamabad High Court on February 7 directed the ministry of interior and the Capital Development Authority to remove all the illegal katchi abadis in the capital within one month.
The papers-less plots and houses in the katchi abadis change hands on a daily basis and space for rent is also available in the slums such as Muslim Colony.
Located right behind the Prime Minister Secretariat, Muslim Colony is an example of state failure to eradicate slums from the city.
In 2007, around 950 out of the 1,100 dwellers were allotted plots in Farash Town and asked to shift there. But majority of the dwellers sold the plots and reinforced their structures or made additional rooms to rent them out in the slum.
However, after the IHC directives, the top managers of the CDA have started devising a plan.
The CDA chairman held a meeting in his office to discuss various options, including launching a grand operation with the help of the police and the Islamabad administration or talking to the slum dwellers to relocate themselves elsewhere.
Talking to Dawn, the CDA spokesman expressed confidence that the authority would be able to abide by the directives of the court by March 12.
“The court order is a backing in itself and it will be implemented in letter and sprit,” said Asim Khichi, the spokesman.
Easier said than done. If the court orders are considered as a ‘backing’, it can be assumed that politicians, non-governmental organisations and other forces will not interfere in any campaign against the slum dwellers. But is the CDA prepared to carry out such an operation?
It seems that the court directives will lead to higher activity in the slums.
“This is the time to buy some space here. They only issue notices but see everybody is living here,” said a dweller of Muslim Colony during a visit to the slum by this reporter.
There are three departments in the CDA responsible for containing the growth of slums.
But still not only the illegal slums have swelled to 20 but also the number of residents in the 10 recognised katchi abadis is growing.
The environment wing is responsible to check the construction and occupation of the government land along the natural streams.
The wing has the powers even to get an FIR registered against the violators.
But a large number of slums still can be seen along the streams.
Secondly, the enforcement directorate has a post of deputy director vigilance, who along with the staff is responsible for keeping an eye on any settlement on government land.
Currently, there is no regular director enforcement and the acting charge is with one deputy director whereas DD vigilance has been assigned other duties.
The key responsibility to manage the affairs of slums is with the katchi abadi cell which had the strength of around 20 personnel in 1997.
However, currently there is one deputy director, one office assistant, one UDC and one LDC in the cell.
The price tag of a house with two rooms, a veranda, kitchen, restrooms along with electricity and water connections in the slums starts from Rs100,000 and goes up to Rs500,000.
Similarly, the rents range from Rs500 per room in a shared quarter to Rs6,000 per month for an independent unit.
Some slums even have natural gas connections.
The katchi abadi cell has estimated that the slum area population has grown to 100,000 in Islamabad and they represent a significant number of voters in NA-48.
Therefore, any action by the CDA is likely to invite the sympathy of many political figures for the slum dwellers.