ISLAMABAD: Backed by the police, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) started clearing the city slums on Monday, by bulldozing some 2,000-shanty dwellings, on the green belt that separates sectors H-10 and I-10.
Although, the civil protests had forced the CDA to delay the launch of its plan to flatten the 12 large slum areas, inside and outside Islamabad, by three weeks, it met no resistance from the shanty dwellers when the demolition began.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, it seems, gave the go-ahead signal on Sunday when, addressing a news conference on the recent terrorist bombing of the city’s fruit and vegetable market, he expressed annoyance at the existence of a slum next to the market.
“Who is responsible for allowing these people to live in these slums?” he asked, adding that they did not spring up just in the last one year.
However, the city managers appeared cautious in acting on the signal. They started with a comparatively small slum, and left a mosque and shrine, built in its midst, intact.
The dwellers were allowed to remove their belongings before the bulldozers moved in.
One slum dweller, Shahbaz Ahmed, however, claimed that the demolition begun without giving any notice and the belongings of many dwellers were damaged in the hurried operation.
“We have been living in the area since 1980s. CDA has a policy to allot alternate plots before bulldozing the slums, but in our case it did not bother to do so,” he said. “We have contacted the residents of other slums to organise a protest against the operation.”
To Saeed Khan, another slum dweller, the CDA showed its bias against the poor people.
A CDA press release said that its directorate of enforcement reclaimed 1,200 kanals of CDA from “illegal occupants” in Monday’s operation.
It was ordered by the CDA chairman, Maroof Afzal, conducted with the assistance of the district administration and the police, and lasted for more than eight hours.
“Around 2,000 illegal constructions, including houses, sheds and huts, were demolished. Heavy machinery was used to carry out the operation,” said the press release.
Spokesperson of CDA Asim Khichi dismissed the chance of any evicted person suffering any torture in the presence of a magistrate who oversaw the operation.
“The operation was a part of CDA’s policy against encroachments. No one has the right to encroach on CDA’s land,” he told Dawn. “Recently, the land was recovered in Banigala and Bhara Kahu.” Chairman of the Katchi Abadi Alliance and Punjab Secretary of the Awami Workers Party Dr Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, however, said that the operation by the CDA was against its own policy.
“People, who have been living in slums for decades, can not be removed without a fair deal. The operation was unfortunate and it will adversely affect the politics of the federal capital,” he said.
Civil rights activist, Alia Amirali, said that a meeting held in sector H-11, on Monday, decided that the slum dwellers will resist any further operations.
Mufti Abdullah, of Afghan Basti in I-11, told Dawn that the operation caused panic in the area.
“Children and women are scared of what will happen to them. Their male relatives say they will not compromise on their rights. If CDA wants to demolish the slums, it has to allot alternate plots,” he said.
The 12 slums, which the CDA has planned to level, include Afghan Basti in I-11/1, Benazir Colony I-11/4, Dhobi Ghat Colony G-6/2, Christian Colony H-9, Shopper Colony G-7 Markaz, Maskeen Colony G-8/4, Muzaffar Colony H-11/4, Christian Colony G-6/1-4, the Bari Imam katchi abadi and the slums in I-12 and H-12.