Two years on, evictees of I-11 katchi basti still homeless
Political workers, students, intellectuals, trade unionists and katchi abadi dwellers from across the twin cities gathered at the Islamabad Press Club Thursday to demand justice for the 20,000 evictees from I-11 katchi abadi two years after its brutal demolition. Organized by the Awami Workers Party (AWP) a public dialogue condemned the government’s failure to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of providing adequate housing for all citizens and queried the Supreme Court about the reason for not ordering compensation to I-11 affectees despite the fact that a case has been pending in the SC since immediately after the abadi’s demolition. Speakers at the event included President AWP Fanoos Gujjar, AWP Punjab deputy secretary Alia Amirali, PPP MNA Nafisa Shah and Bilal Minto, an advocate responsible for the filing of a constitutional petition against the demolition of the I-11 katchi abadi and for the provision of low-income housing. Alia Amirali pointed out that until and unless democratic institutions cater directly to people’s needs, Pakistan’s politics will remain crisis-ridden and the establishment will always be able to demean democracy, politics and political institutions. Bilal Minto noted that while the SC has acknowledged that the state must provide all Pakistanis with adequate shelter, and that the residents of I-11 were denied this right, there is as yet no attempt to redress the elite bias in urban planning at any level of government. He said that in Islamabad and other cities upper-middle class housing schemes continue to proliferate and the CDA and other government functionaries are making no attempt to arrest such speculative business ventures and initiate low-income housing schemes in their place. Fanoos Gujjar demanded an investigation into the status of the land that was cleared during the I-11 eviction and for the SC to order at least part of the area to be used to resettle the evictees. He said that the former Interior Minister was very keen to demolish I-11 katchi abadi and this raises questions about the real intentions behind the eviction. Fanoos Gujjar noted that the site of former I-11 remains unused and so therefore the SC has reasonable grounds to order resettlement there, especially since the majority of I-11’s residents work in the Fruit and Vegetable Mandi nearby. The I-11 katchi abadi was razed to the ground by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on the 31st of July, 2015, leaving over 2,000 working class families without a home. The brutally forced eviction was justified by extensive propaganda declaring I-11 an “Afghan Basti” that housed foreign criminals, despite the proven fact that the majority of abadi residents were Pakistani Pashtuns. Roughly one-third of Pakistan’s urban population lives in settlements similar to the I-11 katchi abadi, often without basic amenities such as water, electricity, and gas. The CDA has long maintained a discriminatory policy against such settlements, often hiding behind racist and classist falsehoods in order to justify its actions.