Ethnic prejudice

Sir: Slum dwellers of Islamabad live in poverty and they lack basic necessities of life like health, education and shelter. They live in houses made of mud: some of them are a mixture of bricks and mud and around 10 percent of them live in houses made of cement and bricks. Many of the houses can be easily flooded by rains. Houses consist of a single room that fulfils the requirements of a bedroom, kitchen and a dining room as well. The electricity supply is pathetic in the area; unavailability of purified water and open drainage systems clearly show that hygiene in the area is maintained at a zero-level. Capital Development Authority (CDA) carried out a detailed survey of the capital to gather data of the slums and has decided to demolish at least a dozen slums in Islamabad but did not mention any resettlement plan or compensation for the helpless dwellers. According to reports, on the direction of the CDA chairman, notices were issued to slum dwellers of sectors G-7/1, G-7/2, G-7/3, G-8/1, F-7/4 and F-6 to vacate their houses. CDA has asked for help from other agencies to help it carry out a grand operation against slum dwellers in Islamabad. We were informed that slum dwellers in the slums of G-7/1, G-7/2, G-7/3, G-8/1, H-11/4, F-7/4 and F-6 have been warned through public notices that the slums will be demolished between March 24 and April 30, 2014. According to the notice, the CDA will demolish all these structures and dwellers will be responsible for any risk involved. The leftist community of the capital city has called this operation an attack on the fundamental rights of thousands of working-class people who live in the capital’s slums. Nazir S Bhatti, chief of Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC), strongly condemned this action and determined to strongly resist the CDA’s plan. He said that Christians are being singled out in part because of ethnic prejudice. CDA member Shaista Sohail said that the civic agency had been directed by the Ministry of Interior to clear the illegally occupied lands of slum dwellers to lessen security risks. It is to be noted that the Islamabad High Court’s Justice Shoukat Aziz Siddique had directed CDA to clear the slum settlements from the capital within a month in order to ensure the security of the city. Basharat Khokhar, human rights activist, visited CDA senior management and was assured by CDA officials of foolproof security provision to Christian’s slum dwellers of the capital. Member Administration, Amir Ahmad Ali, assured them that the CDA is not going to demolish any Christian katchi abadi (slum) in the capital. Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar has led the charge for a crackdown. He singled the katchi abadis out as possible militant havens soon after his party came to power last summer. It is pertinent to mention here that most of the inhabitants in these slums are Christians who have lived in these slums in deplorable conditions for a long time. We believe that the CDA has different policies for working class people living in the slums and those living in the superior sectors of the capital.


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