I-11 slum dwellers thwart CDA with love, offer talks, flowers

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For the second time in three days, personnel and vehicles of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the police gathered to launch its planned demolition of Islamabad’s largest informal settlement on Wednesday. However, once again, the authorities were unable to carry through their operation due to protests of the I-11 katchi abadi residents.

The protesting residents even went as far as to invite the CDA officials to hold talks with them to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the ongoing stand-off, but the city authorities refused to join them. Despite the rebuff, children from the settlement delivered flowers to the CDA and police personnel at the scene, in a gesture of goodwill from the residents. After several hours, the authorities left the area without any action.

On Monday, thousands of residents protested after a large contingent of police and CDA personnel, backed by bulldozers and other demolition vehicles arrived near the informal settlement in sector I-11 to start its eviction drive.

The residents called on the CDA to begin a meaningful dialogue with them on the issue rather than threaten them with bulldozers and armed policemen.

“We are talking about the livelihoods of almost 20,000 people, so we think the authorities have a responsibility to hear our point of view before sending in their bulldozers to make us all homeless,” said I-11 resident Nasir Khan. “The blood and sweat of the poor workers built Islamabad, so there needs to be a discussion about housing for the poor here.”

CDA’s current eviction drive comes after the Islamabad High Court ordered it to demolish all informal settlements in Islamabad. The settlement in Sector I-11 is the largest such katchi abadi in the city, housing almost 20,000 working class people, since as far back as the early 1980s. It is often referred to as “Afghan Basti”, despite the fact that records show the vast majority of its residents are Pakistani citizens.

An official of the CDA Anti-Encroachment Wing told Pakistan Today on condition of anonymity that the civic authority would enforce its master plan as per 1960 CDA Ordinance at any cost.