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ISLAMABAD: Residents of Islamabad’s katchi abadis have urged the city managers to ensure affordable housing for the poor residents of the city instead of making a marginalised segment of society homeless.

The Awami Worker’s Party (AWP) and the All Pakistan Katchi abadi Alliance organised a press conference on Thursday to commemorate one year of the Capital Development Authority’s operation at the I-11 slum.

A former resident of the now demolished I-11 katchi abaadi, Noor Mohammad said the lives of 16,000 people have been disturbed by CDA’s operation against the settlement in July last year.

He said thousands had been made homeless after the operation and pushed into further poverty.

AWP Punjab president says CDA operations against katchi abadis are in violation of SC orders

He said children from the demolished settlement were still out of school. Mr Mohammad said the evicted residents were willing to pay an affordable price for resettlement as well. However, he said, CDA was not willing to allocate land for this purpose.

Speakers at the conference, including AWP Punjab President Aasim Sajjad Akhtar as well as representatives of other katchi abadis in Islamabad, also criticised the CDA’s operation against the 30-year-old settlement in I-10 where, they said, some 20 houses had been demolished.

“The state is responsible for providing its citizens with shelter, a right which the Supreme Court also recognised during the proceedings of the I-11case. However, ignoring the apex court, the CDA has been conducting operations against slums,” Mr Akhtar told Dawn.

Before launching an operation against settlements and slums, he said, CDA should first provide its residents with alternate housing.

During the press conference he said the CDA’s actions, including the operations in I-11 and I-10, were proof that city managers did not care for the rule of law.

“In fact, the CDA only works according to its own needs, interests, power and profit,” he said, adding that there had been no low-income housing scheme in the federal capital over the last 15 years. Yet, he said, land was sold at throwaway prices to five star hotels.

He said he had been shocked to learn that CDA had conducted yet another operation against a settlement the past week and said he had been present when the Supreme Court had restrained the civic authority for evicting the residents of yet another katchi abadi.

Speakers said the CDA had also sent eviction notices to residents of a G-7 katchi abadi on Wednesday which, they said, was further proof of its disregard for the highest court in the country.

They called on the CDA to stop violating the law, fulfil its constitutional responsibilities, resettle all evicted residents of the I-11 and 1-10 katchi abadis and to regularise the katchi abadis in Islamabad.

A resident of a G-7 katchi abadi, Chaudhry James said CDA officials had also visited Iqbal Town Abadi in G-7 on Wednesday and had threatened people with eviction.

If the CDA would not even accept the apex court’s orders against evictions, then what hope were the poor left with, said a resident of the recently demolished I-10 katchi abadi, Ahmed Ali Shah.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2016