ISLAMABAD: A clash broke out in Islamabad's Sector I-11 between slum-dwellers and Capital Development Authority (CDA) officials on Thursday as authorities backed by some 1,200 police personnel and rangers launched an anti-encroachment operation against informal settlements in the area.
All roads leading to Afghan Basti were blocked before the operation was launched to raze more than 800 illegal homes constructed in Sector I-11.
|Police shelling protesting residents. ─ DawnNews screengrab|
The operation was met with resistance from residents of the settlement. Television footage showed clashes occurring between authorities and residents as policemen and women dragged protesting residents away from the site.
Residents of the settlement were shown throwing stones at policemen who fought back, baton-charging the slum-dwellers and using teargas to disperse them.
|Slum-dwellers throwing stones at policemen. ─ DawnNews|
Bulldozers demolished temporary homes in the settlement as policemen held onlookers back from disrupting the process.
|A bulldozer demolishing a house in the I/11 slum. ─ DawnNews screengrab|
Meanwhile, rights activists expressed dismay at the forced evictions, spurring debate on social media on whether the slum dwellers should be evicted in this manner without arrangement of alternative housing.
The hashtag #stopevictions has been trending on social-media website Twitter for the past few hours.
Earlier, fearing resistance from the katchi abadi residents, the CDA had delayed the operation which was to be held on Wednesday.
The I-11 Katchi Abadi, according to a survey carried out by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2013, is home to 864 families and 8,000 people live there. During a visit to the slum on Wednesday, it was observed that in their negotiations with the CDA, residents were unwilling to settle for anything less than alternative land.
Earlier this week, an enforcement team of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) along with a large number of police personnel had failed to launch an operation to remove the I-11 slum after a seven-hour-long face-off with the dwellers.
The residents of the katchi abadi proved that they were organised, well-connected and had been tipped-off about the operation a day earlier. CDA officials seemed disappointed over the attitude of the police who did not seem interested in taking action against the dwellers.
On June 26, the CDA had submitted a four-phase plan to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for the removal of illegal slums.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddique had directed the CDA to remove the katchi abadi from I-11 where a new sector could not be developed due to the presence of the illegal settlers for over three decades.
Also read: ‘Action against illegal slums continuing’
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the I-11 Katchi Abadi housed 20,000 people. The estimate has now been updated to reflect findings of a recent UNHCR survey.