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ISLAMABAD: A preliminary report regarding the status of fundamental rights of the inhabitants of the slum/shanty settlements in the federal capital was submitted, on Friday, before the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The report prepared by Advocate Umer Ijaz Gilani was filed in the court of Chief Justice Athar Minallah in a petition, wherein, the court had barred the Capital Development Authority (CDA) from demolishing "Katchi Abadis" in the federal capital.

The IHC had appointed Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Vice Chairman Islamabad Bar Council (IBC), Abid Hassan Minto advocate, Abid Saqi advocate, and Umer Ijaz Gilani as amicus curiae to assist the court. Gilani's report stated that any legal determination regarding Katchi Abadis and the rights of their residents must be based on the actual sociological context of present-day Pakistan and should not be based on complete abstractions.

"The sociological reality is that a very large proportion, ie, over 40 percent of all the urban residents in Pakistan reside in Katchi Abadis. In the context of this extraordinarily grim housing situation, idealistic solutions - such as complete re-settlement of Katchi Abadis - do seem very practically possible. It is because of this sociological context that most housing rights activists in Pakistan have focused their energies on providing some form of a legal cover to the millions of Pakistani citizens who happen to live in Katchi Abadis," said the report.

He adopted that they wake up every single day to face an uncertain future. As they leave for work in the morning, their biggest concern is not about how to improve the aesthetics of their neighborhood; their bigger concern is whether they will still have a home and a neighbor when they return home in the evening. To put it in layman's words, the Katchi Abadis in Pakistan are so many and so huge that re-settling them is simply not going to be possible in the short run.

The report further said the issue of Katchi Abadis is neither unique to Islamabad nor is it new. It is an issue, which is present all over the global South. And it has been there at least since the dawn of the modern state.

The report added, "In the case of Islamabad, contrary to what the CDA claims, the urban planning practice has been consistently elitist. Anyone with even an iota of urban planning knowledge can see that the layout plans approved by CDA are not based on any scientific assessment of housing needs. As a result, in almost all the lay out plans there is an over-supply of expensive, large villa-style plots; on the other hand, adorable, mid-rise apartment communities which typically house the less well-off all over the world, are simply not planned for in the CDA-approved lay out plans. The mushrooming of Katchi Abadi is a direct consequence of this arbitrary, illegal and non-scientific urban planning by the CDA."

It submitted that there are numerous important legal and policy documents, which deal with the subject and which need to be reviewed before passing any judgment on the matter.

A few are included Sindh Katchi Abadis Act, 1987, Punjab Katchi Abadis Act, 1992, Balochistan Katchi Abadis (Regularization and Development) Act, 2021 (which replaced the Act of 1987), National Housing Policy 2001 and the National Resettlement Policy 2002, Law and Justice Commission's Report to the Supreme Court in Constitution Petition 41/2015, and draft Right to Shelter Bill prepared by the LJCP. He also sought more time from the court to prepare a more detailed and informed brief on the subject.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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