Apni Basti housing project consigned to oblivion

Published April 15, 2024
Dilapidated structure of a house of the project. — Dawn
Dilapidated structure of a house of the project. — Dawn

HARIPUR: With ever rising population rendered homeless following natural disasters or otherwise in the country, the housing projects launched for poor and low income citizens in Haripur remained abandoned as 10 successive governments since 1988 failed to find the utility of its costly land and leftover structures.

The then prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo launched ‘Apni Basti’ project, also known as, 7-marla scheme in 1987 to build 150,000 housing units for low income and poor citizens.

However, only 35,000 houses could be constructed across the country before the then president Gen Ziaul Haq sent his government packing in May 1988.

For the poor of Haripur district, two sites, one each in Kot Najibullah and Pharhala, were selected for the construction of housing units.

Each unit was supposed to have two rooms, a kitchen and a washroom and an open space in front of each lane of five houses, to be used by the owners as courtyard-cum-street commonly.

Scheme for homeless people was launched by Mohammad Khan Junejo in 1987

For Pharhala Apni Basti site, provincial secretary of physical planning and housing acquired a 150-kanal piece of land to build 140 residential quarters but only 40 units could be constructed.

For Kotnajibullah Apni Basti site, provincial government acquired about 100-kanal for a similar number of housing units and 25 were built. However, none of the homeless persons could benefit from both the multimillion projects.

It was observed that the scheme had too many flaws, including unrealistic pricing, unsuitable locations and lacking easy availability of basic amenities like water, electricity and gas.

Poor monitoring and security arrangements eventually led to stealing of door and window frames and bricks. In Kot Najibullah, a couple of units could survive the broad day robbery sprees as being occupied by the tenants of local influential people.

Likewise in Pahrhala, partial structures of walls and roof are still intact but the miscreants are busy removing bricks of units slowly.

By following the deep rooted political culture of abandoning the projects of predecessors, the 10 successive governments failed to complete the scheme although both PPP and PML-N and later PTI launched different housing projects during their tenures yet they ignored the Apni Basti project that requires less investment against the new one.

According to the census 2023, Haripur district alone has 137 individuals, 79 male and 58 female, as homeless. As per census 2017, there are 38,415 homeless people in Pakistan and KP province constitute 11.3 per cent of the total shelter-less population while according to independent statistics shared by Muslim Aid organisation there are 20 million homeless people in the country.

A site visit to both the sites and review of revenue record show that of the 150-kanal land of abandoned Apni Basti project, the ANP-PPP coalition government had allotted 30-kanal to local journalists for Haripur Media Colony, which is still in limbo since 2012.

A piece of land of similar size was carved out for Girls Degree College Pharhala that is quite functional right now and the remaining land and open space between the houses is now being used for sowing seasonal crops by local influential people. Interestingly, the legal status of occupation of land is not known.

The leftover housing structures are put to disappear without any repair and maintenance or utility.

Likewise, in Kot Najibullah the same land was used for agriculture purposes but who allotted the land to whom and under what conditions are still enigma even for the officials of revenue department.

“Give these incomplete units and even the white space to genuinely poor and homeless people on merit basis to save it from the illegal grabbers,” said Niaz Khan, a social activist. He said that the village and neighbourhood council chairmen should be tasked to prepare the lists of homeless people.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2024

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