EDITORIAL: As cities grow so does the number of their inhabitants. The nation’s capital, Islamabad, too has grown since its birth in early 1960s both in terms of its population and territorial size. And such a multidimensional enlargement was very much in the mind of chief architect Doxiadis Associates, who clearly marked out the city’s master plan. In that document there is a very clear zoning of land as to where the housing is to be and what areas have to be allocated and protected as parks, playgrounds and agro-farms. But a city that was visualized to be built for ages took no time to lose its identity — and at the very hands of its chief custodian, Capital Development Authority (CDA). Given the authority’s excessive tinkering with the master plan, the capital city begun losing its form and flavour. Consequently, Islamabad is now the real estate owned by patricians, who need plebeians to serve them as cooks, drivers and security guards. While the CDA has allowed patricians to play havoc with the master plan the plebeians have been forced to pitch their tents on the outskirts, which in some cases amounted to encroachments. Not only did the patricians violate the master plan, they did it with vengeance. But it has been invariably overlooked by the Capital Development Authority. While the violations by the rich and mighty have been regularized by tinkering with the master plan, the slum dwellers are being forced out of their homes and hearths by the CDA’s anti-encroachment squads. But, thanks to the Islamabad High Court’s prompt order, that is no more the case. Chief Justice Athar Minallah has stopped the CDA from carrying out evacuation and demolition of shanties during the winter as per desire of dwellers of shanties.
The court was hearing a case against the action taken by the CDA against shanties on Monday. Addressing the counsel for CDA, Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked: “Are you constructing the city for elites? Do the dwellers of katchi abadis have no right? Have you worked out any scheme for them?” The counsel for CDA had no answer. Since CDA’s excessive connivance with the law-breaking elites has been a recurring theme the court reminded the counsel to recall what the court has already said about this unfair and unjust practice. To the elite only notices are sent but in cases of shanties the CDA sends its bulldozers. The court also warned that if the law is not implemented criminal proceedings will be initiated against the CDA chairman. But that’s for now. For the future the government should order the CDA to launch a proper plan to resettle dwellers. Why can’t it earmark a full sector for allotment to dwellers of these shanties on an easy and affordable cost? They too are Pakistanis and have rights equal to the rights of the rich and mighty of the country.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022