ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday asked a former civil servant, the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) and the provinces to come up with a solid, realistic and coordinated housing policy for the shelterless.
Tasneem A. Siddiqui, who has worked for the cause of katchi abadis in Sindh for 15 years, appeared before a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja to share his experience.
The Supreme Court has taken up a petition moved by senior counsel Abid Hassan Minto and his son Bilal Minto seeking a declaration that under the Constitution the state was bound to provide shelter and other amenities to those evicted from slums. The petitioners expressed concerns over the manner the residents of Sector I-11 katchi abadi were evicted by the CDA on July 30.
Mr Siddiqui was assigned the task to formulate proposals when he offered to come out with a workable plan for resolving the issue of katchi abadis in Islamabad within two weeks.
After receiving the proposals, the court intends to circulate the same among the federal and provincial governments to ascertain their opinions leading to the formulation of a state policy.
The court ordered Secretary LJCP Mohammad Sarwar Khan to convene a meeting with the petitioners and their counsel as well as the respondents and the advocates general of four provinces in addition to Mr Siddiqui and suggest proposals how the fundamental rights of the citizens can be ensured.
While postponing further proceedings till Monday, the court said its Aug 26 order restraining the capital administration from taking any adverse action similar to the July 30 bulldozing of Sector I-11 katchi abadi would remain effective.
Mr Siddiqui regretted that 30 to 35 per cent population of Pakistan lived in different katchi abadis because the benefits of housing schemes launched by both public and private sectors had not reached the lower income group. There are 600 katchi abadis in Karachi alone of which many were regularised
and upgraded with the help of Akhtar Hameed Khan of the Orangi Pilot Project. He regretted that Islamabad was designed by the Greeks for bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen without allocating a space for those who would serve them. Therefore, Islamabad lacks any provision for the people belonging to the lower income group.
There is an impression that those living in the katchi abadis consist of terrorists, criminals, smugglers, drug peddlers and prostitutes. But it is also a fact that those who come to live in the katchi abadis left their beautiful dwellings in search of jobs and built the cities like Islamabad, Mr Siddiqui added.
“They are trustable if they live in our servant quarters to serve but become criminals and terrorists the moment they shift to the katchi abadis,” regretted Justice Dost Mohammad Khan.
Mr Siddiqui said people who run the state had a different meaning of poverty that was why they announced schemes which did not suit the poor. As a result, the housing backlog was increasing since the schemes announced by the governments remained unoccupied. Around 200,000 plots and 65,000 flats in different government schemes were never opted by the lower income groups despite the fact that these were meant for them.
On the other hand, the rich and affluent grab all the lands and properties in different schemes because the land is considered to be most profitable business in Pakistan, he said.
He lamented that the prime minister had announced to construct 0.5 million housing units for the poor and even allocated a budget for the purpose and appointed a steering committee but it could hold only three meetings during the last two-and-a-half years.
Mr Siddiqui emphasised the need for a national housing framework in accordance with the ground realities with the need of cities such as Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2015