Greenbelts: the only shelter for the shelterless


The slight shift in weather, especially of hot and humid nights towards cool and nippy ones in the federal capital, is going to add more miseries and troubles for the labourers, who are struggling to meet both ends meet in daylight and now concerned about having a few hours sleep at night on the greenbelts of the city. Unemployment and inflation have forced labourers to spend nights on greenbelts in different sectors but they say that they would struggle to counter nights as well amidst sliding mercury and once the winter comes into full effect.
During a visit to different areas of the city on Sunday, this scribe found that hundreds of people were sleeping on the greenbelts to save money but with the chill in the air at night, they are looking for proper shelter to spend the forthcoming winter. Most of these labourers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and others part of the country arrived in Islamabad to earn livelihood and are spending nights on greenbelts due to high prices of food and shelter in the city. Talking to Pakistan Today, the residents of the federal capital expressed serious concern over the situation. They said many of these people were a threat to law and order situation, as they were involved in criminal activities, including drug peddling.
According to locals, these people start gathering on greenbelts in G-10, G-7, I-10, G-10, G-11, I-9, F-6, I-8, I-11 and G-8 after sunset. These people have come from all over the country for employment but after failing in to getting a good job, they start working as labourers. Most of them work on daily wages and do jobs like mason, carpenter and whitewash and selling different items on the streets.
Some of these people are drug addicts and also involved in selling chars, opium and hashish, locals maintained.
When asked now the weather is changing and they have to be under a shelter, what would you suggest to do besides criticising the labourers, the residents said they were donating money to those who they thought were deserving but they could not help them about winter.
“Basically, it is a core responsibility of state to give proper food, cloth and shelter to every citizen, because individuals cannot help these poor labourers given the alarming inflation,” said Kamran Khan, a resident of G-10. He advised labourers to make quick arrangements before the freezing cold.
Pakistan Today while conducting visits in various sectors observed that these labourers flocked to the greenbelts where some gangsters allowed them to spend the night after receiving Rs 20. A cot is also provided to them at the rate of Rs 30 per night with no security.
Sources said youngsters from posh areas of federal capital also visited greenbelts to get drugs. “Some of them sleep here for the whole night after using drugs while police arrest a few of them. However, they are immediately got released after bribing the police,” sources said.
They said over 30 percent of drug peddlers were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Innocent labourers also get trapped by them and become a victim of their sinister motives,” sources said.
Sources confirmed that many people around them were involved in drug peddling. Talking to this correspondent, Hamza Khan, Hameedullah Khan, and Arshad Amin said they had come to Islamabad in search of a job but so far they had not succeeded in it. “We don’t have financial resources to rent a house or a room in a flat, that is why we have to sleep here being the only option left for us,” they said. They requested the city administration to set up some hostels to accommodate people like them to avoid criminal activities.
Talking about the coming winter, they said they were the unluckiest persons by birth, who had left their beloved parents and families, worked whole day in scorching heat to get meagre amount and than at night sleep under the sky. With the summer fading away, they now had to arrange for proper shelter to spend the nights.
“Nature has never been friendly towards me since by birth. I was born in a poor family, never went to school, thought to get some work in construction sector and than become a mason to work in different houses. I came to federal capital in 1999, and since than working as a mason. Some day I get work but other days no one contacts me,” said 30-year-old Bilal Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said initially no one knew him in Islamabad but now he had met some people from his native village.
Khan said he had been spending his nights on greenbelts in summer and hired a room along with others in winter. “But it is tough job for me as I cannot afford living in a room because of lack of money.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Aamir Ahmed Ali said they had received many complaints regarding greenbelts being used for sleeping and drug trafficking. “The administration has obtained the record of all the persons who sleep on greenbelts, but we cannot maintain proper record of these people because of increase in their number in every summer.”
Ali said the issue had already been discussed with DIG Islamabad and the operation was launched against people sleeping on greenbelts who were involved in criminal activities.
While talking to this scribe, Islamabad administration’s spokesman Muhammad Naeem said they were aware of the issue and police had already been directed to take strict action against the criminals.
He said the police had also constituted committees at local level and established police community centres to check Afghan refuges and suspected persons in different sectors of capital, adding that those, who did not possess CNIC, would be booked.