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Demolishing slums... By Shamim

13 February, 2014

Everyone wants to live a peaceful life. However, people living in the suburbs of Islamabad, the so-called slum areas of the otherwise beautiful and calm city, are under threat. It is not so much because of the absence of basic necessities of life denied to them. In fact it is the greed of those who want them displaced so as to grab the land from under their feet to build high-rise buildings or some exotic housing colony. I have been visiting the slums since 2009, and every visit would leave me in pain. They are leading an animal existence. Unpaved roads, broken houses and contaminated water to drink are the handfuls they survive on. People inhale the toxic gases emitted from the nearby ganda naala (sewerage drain), not to mention that the smell has stopped disturbing them after years of proximity.

Most of the inhabitants of these slums are Christians, migrated from different parts of the country. They have settled in the city in search of jobs and a better future. For them health or hygiene are luxuries that should be shunned for a survival that makes two ends meet at the end of the day. Last Friday, a local court ordered the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to remove all the illegal katchi abadis (slums). Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddique of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the CDA to clear all settlements from the capital within a month. There are ten slum settlements in different sectors of the capital like Tent Colony, 66 Quarters, 48 Quarters, katchi abadi G-8/1, 100 Quarters, France Colony, Essa Nagri, Dhuke Najju, Haq Bhahu and Muslim Colony. The CDA officials estimated that there must be around 5,000 families in and around these slums.

I wonder what would become of these 5,000 families if the CDA takes action on the IHC's order. Human rights worker Basharat Khokhar has met the CDA manager, Amir Ahmed Ali, and requested him to look into the matter and take necessary measures to stop the demolition process. And if the demolition is taken forward, the United Nations is requested to intervene and help these internally displaced people.

Shamim Masih

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