‘Get rid of Christians, keep Islamabad clean’: CDA’s Donald Trump moment

Published December 11, 2015
A Christian family stands outside their home in the run-down area of Mehrabad on the outskirts of Islamabad. —AFP
A Christian family stands outside their home in the run-down area of Mehrabad on the outskirts of Islamabad. —AFP

From the makers of the I-11 human rights catastrophe that left thousands homeless, comes a reinvigorated drive to not only keep Islamabad beautiful, but also dependably and homogeneously Muslim.

In a bid to garner legal support for its slum demolition drive in Islamabad, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) submitted a report to the Supreme Court, lamenting the Christian community’s alleged takeover of the government’s territory, identifying the influx as a threat to the numerical superiority of Muslims in the capital city.

The report runs like a classic diatribe by Donald Trump, caught on paper.

The five-page, typo-ridden document bashes slum residents as land-grabbing migrants who, presumably, do not contribute to the development of this country.

The word ‘ugly’ manifests repeatedly in the report as a description of the slums:

They “look like ugly villages” in the beautiful city of Islamabad.

They’re “ugly slums which present bad picture even (more) than ancient slums of neighboring city of Rawalpindi”.

Even without the icing of anti-Christian bigotry, parts of the report appear to have been ripped straight out of the diary of a stereotypically-elitist Islamabadi adolescent, curling his nose at the gross abundance of mud-huts; all forming an unsightly dark patch in an otherwise shining city, as seen from the romantic viewpoints of Pir Sohawa.

Also read: People decry CDA’s ‘fear of Christians’

I suspect the residents of kachi abadis are just as disappointed with their inability to dress up their ‘ugly’ homes with manicured lawns and plush organza curtains, to meet Islamabad’s unforgiving aesthetic standards.

But, I suppose their primary concern is keeping a roof over their families’ heads, however they can.

The CDA’s report must be viewed in the light of the Supreme Court's recent acknowledgement that the government is duty-bound to provide the destitute citizens the shelter they require.

Earlier in August, Justice Qazi Faez Isa declared the CDA “the worst organisation in the world” – a judgement that the CDA has not made an adequate attempt to challenge.

The most unsettling element of the report is the implication that the religion of the slum-residents, makes them more problematic than usual.

The CDA report states:

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 the Muslim majority of the capital.

This statement offers a glimpse into the minds of those who are part of the slum eradication drive.

The problem isn’t just that the unplanned settlements are incompatible with the city’s infrastructure; what seemingly drives the crusade, consciously or unconsciously, is the abhorrence of ‘outsiders’, like the Afghan immigrants, or the vilified Christians of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

This is especially bold, given the CDA’s own recent history with its protesting employees, and the issue of the alleged non-payment of their services for more than three months.

CDA’s fear of the Christian influx diluting the Muslim majority also exposes the commonly denied fact in Pakistan, life as a minority is a frightful affair.

What would happen if Muslims, in an unlikely scenario, lose their majority in the capital district? Nothing, if the ignorant claim of minorities having equal rights and opportunities in Pakistan is actually true.

Being poor is decidedly awful. And it’s harder still for those who face poverty, as well as religious bigotry.

Daniyal Masih, like many, was forced to leave his home in Mehrabadi due to rising anti-Christian animosity, in the aftermath of a Muslim cleric accusing a young Christian girl of blasphemy. The displaced families eventually resettled in Islamabad.

This particular “land mafia”, incidentally, is also the heart of the twin cities’ labour force. They are house servants, constructors, sanitary workers, and many more who indubitably contribute to our nation’s development.

Also read: Evicting the homeless, keeping Islamabad beautiful?

It’s tough to explain the concept of genuine helplessness to economically privileged citizens, who are used to having choices in life – like whether to buy a sizeable plot in Bahria Town or rent a small apartment in sector E.

It’s an ordeal, attempting to dismantle inane theories about the poor living preferentially in sewage-backed slums out of sheer greed, rather than respectably in a rented room.

How do we talk down to them for their allegedly unlawful actions, when we treat our own legal obligation to provide them affordable housing, as an optional course?

How do we assuage our guilt, if we allow ourselves to discover that thousands of such slum-dwellers are desperate men, women and children with nowhere to go, rather than snickering, conniving members of a non-Muslim land mafia?


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