ISLAMABAD, Feb 7: On Thursday morning, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) threatened to evict almost 8,000 residents of a katchi abadi in front of the international department store, Metro, despite a stay order issued by a civil court.

The move to evict katchi abadi residents was triggered by a directive from the Senate Standing Committee on Capital Authority Development Division (CADD) that had given a February 11 deadline to CDA to take action.

But a stay order from a local court has off set the move. According to the court order, issued by Judge cum Magistrate West Islamabad, Omer Shabbir: “The defendants/respondents (CDA) are restrained from evicting the petitioners/plaintiffs (Ismail, etc.) from the katchi abadi of Sector I-11/4, village Sorain, Tehsil & District Islamabad.”

According to the lawyer behind the petition, Syed Zia Hussain Kazmi, “Ismail, etc.” denotes plaintiffs representing all the residents in I-11/4 katchi abadi.

Upon being informed that the entire katchi abadi is represented in the petition, the CDA spokesperson, Ramazan Sajjid, said that he would “take this new information into consideration” and “naturally not carry out any illegal acts.”

Although there is a caveat. The stay order –  a copy is available with Dawn – states that “the order shall automatically stand vacated if not specifically extended on the next date of hearing by a speaking order”.

But Yasir Kazmi, another lawyer in the case, said that the next hearing is set for March 5, 2013, adding that the stay was at least valid until that date – unless it is extended further.

According to Fazal Shah, a spokesperson of the katchi abadi, the residents had sent a copy of the stay order to the CDA on Wednesday evening.

However, when approached, CDA Director Enforcement Naveedul Haq and police officer DSP Asharaf Shah — both involved in the eviction process — denied any knowledge of the stay order.

But when Dawn presented a copy of the stay order, Haq admitted that the CDA had, indeed, received a copy, the evening before.

However, Haq refused to “accept the copy”, saying that it had to be sent to the head of the CDA, and also refused to comment further saying that it was not his mandate to speak on behalf of the CDA.

Haq proceeded to refer the case to Ramzan Sajjid, the official CDA spokesperson.

On the other hand, Mr Sajjid apologised for the confusion and said: “The CDA is looking to retrieve illegally occupied land in the capital territory in light of a 2011 Supreme Court verdict made after the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf head Imran Khan had called upon the Supreme Court to give the CDA the power to do so. Naturally, the CDA will respect any decision made by any court.”

The CDA spokesperson also assured: “We are not interested in illegalities nor forcing people to move off the I-11/4 land – CDA is currently engaged in negotiations with those who live there.”

When asked how two yellow tractors, eight vans and one bus, along with dozens of CDA workers and police officers would help negotiations, the spokesperson failed to give an appropriate answer.

According to lawyers representing katchi abadi residents, the eviction move is legally questionable as a National Housing Policy passed in 2001 applied to land in Islamabad, ensured the “process of regularisation and up-gradation of the pre-1985 katchi abadis” and shall “continue as per current policy”, and that there “shall be no eviction till katchi abadi residents are relocated as per resettlement plans”.

The katchi abadi has been in existence for 40 years, said lawyers. Giving an example, the lawyers added that the CDA had earlier relocated katchi abadis to Alipur Ferash – which is why the katchi abadi settlers of I-11/4 were making a similar demand.

At the time of print, Dawn was unable to get a hold of the convener of the Senate Standing Committee on Capital Authority Development Division (CADD), Senator Hameedullah Jan Afridi, who had repeatedly issued the February 11 deadline to CDA for “forcing (the CDA) to act”, according to Mr Sajjid, despite a national regulation that states that a resettlement plan is obligatory.

According to reports, another Senator –Mohammad Idrees Khan, the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology – visited the katchi abadi and alleged that Mr Afridi had “personal interest, in the form of plots and profit” in the area.

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