ISLAMABAD: At least nine policemen and three villagers received injuries during an anti-encroachment drive by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the police to vacate the land in the Chauntra village in Margalla Hills without clearing locals’ pending dues first – a move strongly resisted by villagers leading to clashes with the police.

Chauntra is located adjacent to sectors D-10 and E-10, where army installations will be constructed, and the land of this village was also allotted to the armed forces in 2004 but the civic agency had not removed construction from the land.

As per the CDA, the said village was acquired in the 60s. But the civic agency did announce the built-up property (BuP) award, which resulted in further construction on the acquired land. Now, the village houses thousands of people with at least 5,000 houses. Besides natives, outsiders are also living in the area.

As state officials supported by the police moved to clear ‘encroachments’, a large number of villagers gathered to resist the operation. The villagers pelted police with stones and in response, the police resorted to baton-charge and teargas shelling. Police alleged the villagers also used weapons during the clash as well as damaged the official vehicles. The same allegations were levelled against the police.

Nine policemen, three villagers injured as locals refuse to vacate land

Nine policemen, including a deputy superintendent and an inspector, were injured. Police attributed one of the injuries sustained by SI Tahir Niazi due to firing. A villager, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that three villagers were injured in the clash – one received a bullet wound while the other two fell unconscious because of teargas. The injured villagers were moved to Pims.

The clash continued for hours. The situation was defused in the afternoon, police officials said, adding that later senior officers of police and administration also reached there for talks. A large number of villagers also reached F-9 Park for a demonstration, but they returned after negotiations.

The CDA came under criticism as locals said that the operation was started without clearance of their BuP claims by the civic agency. CDA officials said that hundreds of affected persons (whose land was acquired and they were entitled to alternative land) of other sectors – such as D-10-E-10 and E-11 – moved to Chauntra village over the years, where thousands of houses have been constructed.

The CDA statement said, “[The] CDA, district administration and Islamabad police conducted a joint operation against the qabza mafia in Mera Beri (Chauntra). During the operation, qabza mafia opened fire and pelted stones on officers and officials of CDA and Islamabad.”

It said that five houses were demolished “when miscreants started firing, injuring one of the protesters there,” the press release claimed.

According to CDA’s statement, negotiations were also held with the genuine affected persons of the area to demolish the houses constructed after 2004. “After the negotiations, the operation started today, when the non-locals took the law into their hands and opened fire…,” it said.

The CDA stated that the land award of Mera Beri (Chontra) was announced in 1969. Rehabilitation benefits and compensations have been paid to affected persons in lieu of acquired land.

“According to the 1985 Suparco map, there were a total of 30 houses. In 2004, when this land was handed over by the CDA to the concerned department for further use, there were 342 houses at that time,” read the statement.

It said that currently there are nearly 15 to 20 families who are local and genuine affected persons. The remaining 80pc are non-locals or have either purchased CDA-acquired land through stamp papers or are living on rent in houses built by local people, it said.

A local told Dawn that there were over 5,000 houses in the village and 350 families of locals were residing there, he said, adding that the CDA offered plots to locals in E-16 and payment against their lands and houses in Mera Beri which the locals accepted.

“Majority of the people residing in the area are outsiders and CDA refused to compensate them,” the villager said, adding that the outsiders created law and order situation during the operation.

The statement and CDA officials did not speak about those officials who were supposed to keep check on the acquired land as according to CDA’s own statement, there were only 342 houses in 2004. Sources said that thousands of new houses were built after 2004, apparently with the help of CDA officials, who were supposed to keep a check on the acquired land, but they failed. Whereas, sources said that the operation was also badly planned as the CDA should have cleared the compensation cases first before embarking on the anti-encroachment drive.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023

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