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Court cannot direct state to provide house to every person: CJP

05 September, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday ordered the federal and provincial governments to provide a response within one month to the apex court regarding the draft law on low-income housing.

However, he said that the court cannot direct the state to provide a house to every person, as it does not have the resources to provide even water.

Hearing a case regarding the draft law prepared by the Awami Workers Party (AWP) and the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan in connection with the AWP’s constitutional petition on the right to housing, the CJP said that slums should be shifted if required.

He added that people occupy government and private land, and asked whether such persons should be paid for the illegal occupation of land.

It is pertinent to mention here that on the orders of the Islamabad High Court, the Capital Development Authority demolished the I-11 slum on July 31, 2015, and was planning to demolish 34 other slums in the federal capital.

However, the AWP filed a petition in the Supreme Court, demanding compensation and alternative housing for the people affected as the Constitution guarantees food, clothing and shelter to every citizen.

The CJP said that he had visited slums and seen not just big buildings constructed there, but being sold against huge sums of money. Even satellite dishes and air-conditioners were installed in these slums, observed the CJP, asking whether the state had the resources to provide a house to every person. Can compensation be given against illegal occupation, he wondered.

When facilities provided to Americans were discussed during the hearing, the CJP said that Pakistan should not be compared with the United States, but with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Myanmar.

He observed that education was more necessary than housing.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial said that ‘food, clothing and shelter’ had been a political slogan since 1970, observing that the court cannot make policy or even pressurise the government to formulate such policy.

According to a statement released by the AWP, the party’s counsel Bilal Minto stated that the draft law, submitted nearly two years before to provide a legal framework for the regularisation of katchi abadis, resettlement and low-income housing, had been ignored by governments thus far despite the fact that the crisis of affordable housing was intensifying.

AWP Punjab president and lead petitioner in the katchi abadi case, Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, said that it was clear the conditions of slums and low-income housing was not a concern for most state elites, notwithstanding their populist, pro-people rhetoric.

He said that the petition on the right to housing was not being prioritised by the executive, legislative or judicial branches of the state, pointing out that state institutions were unable to understand that the issue of katchi abadis was not a question of criminal behaviour but of the shortage of low-income housing.

The AWP Punjab president added that his forum would continue its struggle to transform the state structure into one that serves the people’s basic needs.

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