ISLAMABAD: An enforcement team of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) along with a large number of police personnel on Monday failed to launch an operation to remove the I-11 slum after a seven-hour-long face-off with the dwellers.
On the other hand, the residents of the katchi abadi proved that they were organised, well-connected and had been tipped about the operation a day earlier. However, some CDA officials seemed disappointed over the attitude of the police who seemed not interested in taking action against the dwellers.
In a statement a few weeks ago, the CDA had announced that it would start an operation against illegal katchi abadis in the city after Eidul Fitr. The CDA had earlier informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that it had selected 42 illegal slums across the capital for the demolition.
At around 10am on Monday, the CDA team along with bulldozers and truckloads of police officials reached near the I-11 slum. Though it was an unannounced operation, surprisingly, the slum dwellers and the leadership of the Awami Workers Party (AWP) started sending out SMS and e-mails on Sunday night asking people to gather at the slum at 8am on Monday.
Seeing large number of dwellers and other people at the slum, enforcement team and police return after seven hours
Police officials, representatives of the district administration and the CDA team remained there for almost seven hours but did not move an inch to remove the slum. On the other hand, hundreds of residents, including children, stood outside the slum to resist any operation.
The residents were supported by scores of students and activists of the AWP from different parts of Islamabad.
An official of the CDA, who was present at the scene, requesting anonymity, said on the direction of the IHC the civic agency had made the arrangements to launch the operation but the police did not play their role.
“We decided to keep the date of the operation secret but the police started arresting the slum dwellers 36 hours before the operation. Because of the arrests, the residents knew that an operation was being launched,” he said.
“We cannot launch any operation against the residents on our own due to the possibility of a strong and armed resistance. We had reached the area along with bulldozers and it was the responsibility of the police to get the way cleared for the demolition of the slum. However, the police did not take a single step,” he said.
However, Station House Officer (SHO) Sabzi Mandi Mehboob Ahmed told Dawn that there was no plan to launch the operation on Monday.
“The residents of the slum gathered on the road due to which the CDA called the police. Now it has been decided that the civic agency and the slum dwellers will hold negotiations. The CDA can call the police any time,” he said.
Mufti Abdullah, a resident of the slum, said the police and the CDA enforcement team were in a mood to launch the operation but because of the unity of the residents they did not proceed. If they did not want to launch the operation, why 10 bulldozers were brought to the area?
“When the police and the CDA team realised that the residents would not move back, they invited us to the police station for negotiations but we refused and said the negotiations can only be held at a neutral place.”
He said the residents had decided to form a committee for the negotiations. He said if the CDA allotted the residents alternative plots in other parts of the city, they would vacate the slum.
Meanwhile, AWP Punjab president Dr Aasim Sajjad Akhtar sought the support of the citizens for the slum dwellers.
“We call on the Supreme Court of Pakistan to provide relief to Islamabad’s most marginalised community by ordering an end to the CDA’s eviction campaign,” he said.
“This is a victory for the working class of Islamabad who have been marginalised for decades,” said Fazal Shah, a leader of the AWP’s I-11 unit.
CDA spokesman Ramzan Sajid said the civic agency was committed to launching the operation as per orders of the IHC.
“The slum will be vacated but we are trying to resolve the issue peacefully,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2015