ISLAMABAD: Two days after bulldozing Sector I-11 Katchi Abadi, academicians, trade unionist and dwellers of the slum knocked the doors of the Supreme Court on Saturday seeking a declaration that the state was duty bound to provide shelter and other amenities to its citizens under the constitution.
“The petitioners have serious concerns over the mode and manner in which the residents of these katchi abadis were evicted by the Capital Development Authority (CDA),” said a petition moved by senior Advocate Abid Hassan Minto and his son Bilal Minto on behalf of the seven petitioners.
The petitioners include Aasim Sajjad Akhtar and Ammar Rashid, who taught at the Quaid-i-Azam University and Mohammad Zahoor, a trade unionist. They all are members of the Awami Workers Party (AWP).
Petition says state is bound to provide shelter, other amenities to its citizens
Besides, Rafiullah, Nasir Khan, Ahmed Agha and Ahmed Ali Shah, the residents of different katchi abadis of the capital including that of sector I-11, were also among the petitioners.
Making interior ministry, CDA, IG Islamabad Tahir Alam Khan, secretary cabinet division and the Chief Commissioner Islamabad Zulfikar Haider respondents, the petition regretted that the state was investing in metro busses and 12 lane highways, signal free corridors, motorways but ignoring the shelterless.
Despite annual devastation of innumerable villages due to terrorism, sectarianism, floods and other natural disasters, the state has turned a blind eye to the increasing need for provision of food, shelter and security, especially in its capital city. In the absence of any State provided mechanism, the residents of the katchi abadis have no option but to occupy the temporary housing schemes that developed in the ICT, the petition argued.
By evicting these residents who have resided in Pakistan their entire life, the state is effectively aiming to penalize people for being homeless, the petition argued adding not only was this a violation of the fundamental right, it was also a crime on part of the state.
By first creating homelessness and then penalising it, the state is targeting its most vulnerable population.
Once the homes of slum dwellers are demolished and no adequate alternative housing is provided, where the state will expect them to sleep, questioned the petition.
The petitioners and their families will now sleep on the roads, in market places, near open sewage, with no access to sanitation or water or any kind of basic amenity, the petition argued adding, “Far from facilitating the petitioners in their struggle for shelter, the state was actively committing a gross violation of the fundamental rights of the dwellers.”
Referring to the allegations that none of the inhabitants of the sector I-11 katchi abadi are citizens of Pakistan rather of Afghan nationals, the petition explained that all the residents hold valid national identity cards though they may be of Pakhtun origin. In fact the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) has stated that as per the information available with it, there is no documented Afghan refugee living in sector I-11 katchi abadi. The Afghan refugees occupy a refugee camp established in sector I-12 by the UN.
When the state has clearly recognised the fundamental right to adequate housing of the citizens, then why it remains clearly reluctant to grant the dwellers of the katchi abadis in Islamabad this right. This is being done even though the residents of the Sectors I-10 and I-11 katchi abadis have been living there for over 20 years (for some residents, it is over 40 years), the petition argued adding, “A completely new generation has been born and raised in these katchi abadis.”
“It goes without saying that no one aspires to live in a katchi abadi. It is no one‘s life’s mission to occupy a shack in a temporary housing scheme,” the petition said.
It is understood that provision of shelter and the opportunity to earn a decent wage are dependent upon the availability of resources. But the state cannot take away what little means the petitioners have to survive, the petition said.
While concluding, the petition asked the Supreme Court to order the government to stop the eviction of the residents of the katchi abadis.
Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2015