ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority’s demolition of the ‘katchi abadi’ in Sector I-11 and the violent resistance to it echoed loud in the National Assembly on Friday, with the government promising an inquiry into alleged excesses, but without halting the bulldozers.
While the house did not have much other business at hand before adjourning for a two-day weekend, several members, mostly from the opposition, alleged brutality by police and Capital Development Authority (CDA) staff.
But voices of support for the operation were also raised from both sides of the house before the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed promised an inquiry into alleged ill-treatment of the residents of the illegal settlement who, according to witnesses, had violently resisted the bulldozing of their ramshackle huts in the southwestern I-11 sector of Islamabad at the start of the operation on Thursday.
“We are ready for an inquiry,” the minister said in response to some members’ demand for such a course, adding that its report would reveal facts about the operation as well as protesters’ claims of casualties and alleged arrest of a human rights activist with a two-year-old son.
Some MNAs, like Abdul Qahar Khan of the government-allied Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party from Balochistan province and opposition Jamaat-i-Islami’s parliamentary leader Sahibzada Tariqullah from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, complained that Pashtun residents of the settlement of many years were wrongly labeled as Afghan refugees and became the main sufferers.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief whip Shirin Mazari and a party colleague from Karachi, Arif Alvi, objected to conducting the operation without providing an alternative site to the slum dwellers to go to.
But another PTI member, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, from the nearby Rawalpindi district, supported the operation.
Like the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N members from the area, Malik Abrar Ahmed and Tahira Aurangzeb, he too called for extending the operation to clear other encroached sectors.
The two PML-N MNAs described the targeted ‘katchi abadi’ as a den of criminals, drug traffickers and arms smugglers.
Sheikh Aftab said the operation was neither sudden nor aimed at any particular ethnic group. It was conducted after many warnings to people occupying land belonging to others and their persistent refusal resulted in the Islamabad High Court ordering their eviction, he said.
How the authorities could look the other way if criminals make their dens in cities like Islamabad and Lahore, he asked.
A Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA from Sindh, Dr Nighat Shakeel, who was the first to protest the CDA operation and demand an alternative place for the katchi abadi residents, asked why similar action was not taken against the owners of farm houses around Islamabad for violating the city laws.
Her MQM colleague Sajid Ahmed demanded a similar operation against what he called “the crime dens” in Karachi.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2015