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People decry CDA’s ‘fear of Christians’

Updated December 09, 2015

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Slum dwellers protest outside the National Press Club on Tuesday. —INP
Slum dwellers protest outside the National Press Club on Tuesday. —INP

ISLAMABAD: Public anger is gathering momentum in the city over the position taken by the Capital Development Authority before the Supreme Court that Christian-populated slums in Islamabad threaten its Muslim-majority character.

On Tuesday, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, and his PPP colleague Qamar Zaman Kaira, joined a rally, called by the Awami Workers Party (AWP), outside the National Press Club on Tuesday to protest “the mindset that divides Pakistanis on religious lines”.

The CDA took the jarring position in defending its plan to clear the federal capital of katchi abadis, which the AWP has challenged as a violation of human rights of the poor.

It formally submitted to the Supreme Court that katchi abadis distort the serenity of the federal capital; that the city cannot accommodate migrants from other parts of the country; and that the CDA wants the katchi abadi residents to return to their ‘native areas’, to clear all slums and prevent state land being ‘robbed’ by new migrants.

Syed Khurshid Shah told the rally that as a party which raised the cry of ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’, “the PPP can never support any action that renders the poor homeless”.

He said the PPP will raise the issue in the parliament.

“Our government never evicted any resident of the federal capital during its five-year rule,” he said.

“Some slums were cleared in Sindh but alternate land and financial compensation were provided to the dwellers.”

PPP information secretary Kaira said that Pakistan was for all its citizens, irrespective of their religion.

“It is really condemnable if someone says it is only for Muslims,” he said.

Human rights activist Farzana Bari said that civil society has been struggling for equal rights for all people “but the CDA’s stance will divide society”. The Constitution guarantees the right to shelter to every citizen and “no one should be removed from Islamabad on the basis of religion,” she added.

Daniyal Masih told Dawn that like many other Christian families he had to move out of Mehrabadi in 2013 when religious animosity gripped the slum after a Muslim cleric accused a young Christian girl of burning Koran. They were resettled in sector H-9.

“But the CDA has been trying to displace us just because we are Christians,” he said.

President AWP Asim Sajjad said that he was shocked to see the report CDA has submitted to the Supreme Court to justify its actions against katchi abadis.

“It is ridden with grammatical mistakes,” he said.

“Either no one checks such hooplas in the CDA or it has a policy to remove Christians from the city,” he said.

Student protester Waseem Ahmed held up ‘the sloppiness of CDA’ as a mirror to the national media which is highlighting these days the calls of the far right in America and Europe to deport Muslims from their lands.

For the record, the report CDA submitted to the Supreme Court reads: “It is necessary to identify the fact that most of the katchi abadis are under the occupation of the Christian community who are shifted from Narowal, Sheikupura, Shakargarh, Sialkot, Kasur, Sahiwal and Faisalabad and occupied the Government land so boldly as if it has been allotted to them and it seems this pace of occupation of land may affect Muslim majority of the capital.”

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2015