ISLAMABAD: Hearing a petition filed on behalf of slum dwellers and social activists, the Supreme Court on Wednesday restrained the capital administration from taking adverse action – similar to the July 30 bulldozing of a katchi abadi in Sector I-11 – until the next hearing of the case.

“On one hand, the government is facilitating Afghan refugees... by extending the deadline to leave the country by another two years, knowing well that they lose refugee status the moment they leave the camps, but [they do not recognise] the people who have built cities with their blood and sweat,” deplored Justice Dost Mohammad Khan, a member of a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Jawwad S Khawaja.

The petition, moved by senior counsel and Awami Workers Party President Abid Hassan Minto and his son Bilal Minto, expressed serious concerns over the mode and manner employed by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to evict residents of the I-11 katchi abadi on July 30.

The Supreme Court asked the federal government, the Capital Development Authority (CDA), the Islamabad chief commissioner and the Islamabad inspector general to submit comprehensive answers to the contentions raised in the petition and also give the total number of katchi abadis in the federal capital.

Court asks govt to explain what policies it has to ensure shelter for citizens of Pakistan

Their replies should also include the number of katchi abadis slated for demolition, as well as the number of similar dwellings that the authorities recognised as regularised.

The government replies will also explain the basis on which a distinction has been drawn between the two categories; i.e. unrecognised slums and regularised ones.

The court also asked what policies, if any, did the government or the CDA have in respect of the obligation of the state to provide shelter to all citizens of Pakistan.

The capital police will also have to furnish their roznamcha, or daily diary, from the 22 police stations situated in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) where records were maintained that relate directly or indirectly to the katchi abadis.

The petitioners were also directed to submit photographs of the existing katchi abadis in the capital city.

In addition to Islamabad, the four provincial governments were also impleaded as parties in the case and ordered to come up with replies showing efforts or policies, if any, to house the citizens of the provinces.

The court ordered the capital administration not to take any adverse action against the katchi abadis or their residents until the next hearing, which is scheduled to be held next Monday.

On the face of it, the court said, the matter raised deals with the fundamental rights of the citizens and constitutes issues of public importance.

“Therefore, subject to just exceptions, the petition appears to be maintainable,” the CJP observed, wondering how the encroachments and violations committed by slum dwellers was different from the violations committed by an influential individual in the capital city.

During proceedings on Wednesday, the CJP also regretted that CDA was being run like a fiefdom and its performance did not instil much hope or encouragement.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2015

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