Islamabad: Hundreds of katchi abadi dwellers held a protest demonstration on Police Lines Road near Pir Wadhai on Sunday in response to decry the Islamabad administration’s use of force to prevent a peaceful rally of katchi abadi dwellers from marching to D-chowk.
Called by the All-Pakistan Alliance for Katchi Abadis, the demonstration carried on for over an hour amidst a sea of red flags. The protestors chanted vociferous slogans against the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and PML-N government for refusing to back down on their plans to bulldoze at least a dozen katchi abadis if the federal capital.
Speaking on the occasion, Awami Workers Party (AWP) Punjab president and chairperson of the Katchi Abadi Alliance, Aasim Sajjad said that Islamabad’s katchi abadi dwellers have set a record for continuing a non-violent resistance movement for almost six months, and thereby proving that democracy in Pakistan is alive and well.
Unfortunately, however, the same democratic principles appear to be conspicuous by their absence in the bureaucracy and elected government, both of which continue to treat katchi abadi dwellers as second class citizens and denying them their fundamental right to permanent shelter, guaranteed by the 1973 constitution.
Aasim Sajjad said that the parliament should play its role and take up this issue during the ongoing budget debate, saying that the urban poor does not care for rhetoric and are demanding that the state regularizes existing katchi abadis and then starts catering to the long-term housing needs of the poor.
Speaking on the occasion, AWP information secretary Ammar Rashid said that the use of force by the government is an indicator of weakness rather than strength. He noted that hundreds of rally participants still succeeded in making their way to the National Press Club in spite of intense efforts by the administration, and that such spirit in the face of adversity will stand katchi abadi dwellers in good stead should the CDA and police make yet another attempt at eviction.
Ammar Rashid pointed out that more and more katchi abadis both from within Islamabad and outside of it have been getting in touch with the Katchi Abadi Alliance in the wake of the police action to express their solidarity with the resistance movement and offered to add further manpower to future protest actions.
A number of representatives of katchi abadi dwellers also spoke on the occasion. They noted that if on the one hand the administration is using strong-armed tactics to weaken the resistance movement then on the other hand touts are trying to divide the movement along religious and ethnic lines. However, all representatives were unanimous that these efforts would go in vain because the cause of shelter for all transcends all such divisions and ultimately only the unity of the working poor across Islamabad’s katchi abadis will guarantee security of tenure.