Life in the sordid slums of Islamabad


Saima Siraj, an inhabitant of an illegal katchi abadi (slum) of the Sector-G-7 of the capital, is stitching clothes on a sewing machine. She appears satisfied as she has almost completed her work. The money that she will get, she will pay as fee of her 10 years old daughter. Saima, 45, is the mother of four and is living a miserable life in an illegal slum in the suburbs of the posh city of Islamabad. Her husband is a daily-wage laborer, a sanitary worker. “I stitch clothes for people as my husband sometime goes without work for many days and sometimes it becomes so difficult for us to provide three meals a day to our children,” she said. She said with the money she would from stitching she would pay off her daughter’s school fee since her husband’s income hardly met their need.
The katchi abadis in the capital city are a serious challenge to the authorities concerned and they appear helpless to find a lasting solution to this sensitive issue. Besides the inhabitant there are living miserable lives in absence of basic necessities such as clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity and gas etc.
According to the CDA record, there are 11 legal and 4 illegal slums in the city. The illegal ones are at near Sitara Market, in G-6/2, I-11 and H-10. Almost all the slums are situated along seasonal rain drains. Most of the people living in these slums originally hail from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and some of them say the have left their homes there to escape abject poverty and sometimes persecution from enemies.
Christians are also a prominent part of theses slums’ population and their women often work as housemaids while men the cleaning jobs. Under the Urban Shelter Programme, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has acknowledged only 11 katchi abadis for provision of basic facilities because the government’s national policy does not allow the authority to facilitate dwellers of slums set up after March 1985. In the past, the CDA announced plan to involve six more katchi abadis in their progammes and according to that plan, people were shifted to Ali Pur Farash but unfortunately the CDA failed to take care of remaining four slums, neglecting them completely.
When Pakistan Today contacted the CDA Deputy Director General (Planning) Ghulam Sarwar Sindhu, he was the official policy had barred them from facilitating the dwellers of illegal slums. He said over 4,000 plots had been allotted to dwellers of slum dwellers while shifting them to Alipur Farash. “We will follow the government policy in removing illegal slums in the city. We understand the sensitivity of the issue and we are working on it,” he said. Some experts are of the view that it is almost impossible for the government to provide housing facilities to all, so instead of starting from scratch in a flawed system, the government should improve the plight of existing low-income groups living in shabby conditions.