Due to severe shortages of available low-income housing in the city, families of laborers, workers and the poor living in Islamabad have established informal settlements, living arrangements known as katchi abadis. The settlements have existed in Islamabad for 4 decades. The shortage is attributed to a failure by central institutions such as the government, Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the judiciary, to regulate, advocate and protect for the rights of the families to affordable housing.
On July 30 2015, the CDA and the federal government destroyed the largest informal settlement in Islamabad, forcing almost 20,000 people (mostly displaced persons/ethnic minorities from regions of FATA and KPK). The government has subsidized many housing projects for communities of public servants, judges and politicians; yet, refuse to comply with Supreme Court orders to allow katchi abadis to exist or provide affordable housing.
Following the razing (demolition) of the I-11 Katchi Abadi in August 2015 , Dr.Akthar, President of the Punjab Chapter of the Awami Worker's Party held a seminar “Beyond Evictions: Resolving the crisis of low income housing in Islamabad” in which he attributed the rise of katchi abadis to:
- Lack of political will to create subsidized housing for the working-class
- Unjust policies of the CDA
- Forced mass migrations due to poor state policies, conflict and natural disasters
Many individuals also move to the city to work and are unable to afford housing and so, end up in these settlements. He is also critical of the CDA, the main regulative authority, for not going after those who violate agro-farming and housing authority regulations and for only targetting the poor in katchi abadis.
The most recent illegal eviction took place on August 2nd 2016, of the I-10 katchi abadi. That morning, CDA, the police, and local land mafia members, demolished the area with bulldozers, without notice, when most residents left for work, throwing women and children out. Some residents showed the police the Supreme Court petition halting further evictions, but were told “we do not accept these here”. The eviction is currently taking place, with 20 homes destroyed, and police and land mafia threatening residents to leave.
These evictions are a violation of both Supreme Court orders and a neglect of CDA responsibilities for providing affordable housing. The Supreme Court has ordered CDA to register katchi abadis, and their residents and create an affordable housing plan. Scores of residents continue to assemble outside the Islamabad Press Club in protest. The evictions illustrate a war on the poor, religious and ethnic minorities and on human rights by the state, land mafia and corporations. The government justifies such evictions citing threats of terrorist and criminal activity taking place in the settlements. Beginning 2014, surveys, evictions notices and illegal search operations have been carried out after the Islamabad High Court’s order for the removal of illegal settlements ignoring the official national and provincial policies. The National Housing Policy, the National Katchi Abadi Policy of 2001 and other official decisions note that such settlements of 40 houses or more can be registered and regularized when they are formed, and can only be removed or improved upon with a formal resettlement plan in consultation with residents. There has been zero consultation in these convictions, with police and land mafia breaking in homes and destroying or stealing the little possessions of the urban poor.
In response to this, the All-Pakistani Alliance for Katchi Abadis and The Awami Workers’ Party have collaborated on a community database of the profiles of local residents of katchi abadis, maps of the settlements to help residents in the claims-making process for the Supreme Court.
Originating Entities and Funding
Both the Pakistani Alliance for Katchi Abadis and the Awami Workers’ Party are both organic, grassroots, people-centered initiatives.
Awami Workers’ Party (AWP) is a political party of the working people which aims to bring together the struggles of workers, peasants, students, women and other marginalized communities in the democratic claims-making process. The party is a coalition of the major leftist organizations in Pakistan, Awami Party, Labour Party and Workers Party in November 2012. Its first Congress was held on Sept 27, 2012. It aims to always work towards becoming a genuine, progressive and socialist political alternative to the material and ideological status-quo in Pakistan. Its current leader is Abid Hasan Minto.The Awami Party’s activities range from from hosting forums on honour killings, land-grabbing etc., to conducting surveys and petitions to help with court cases for accessible housing, to organizing mass demonstrations.
The All-Pakistani Alliance for Katchi Abadis (APKAA) is an association of slum-dwellers from across Pakistan, formed in 2003, created to protect the rights of katchi abadi residents. The association self-identifies as a nationally-organized resistance to the arbitrary eviction and force homelessness of the urban poor, displaced persons and ethnic/religious minorities. It also advocates for affordable housing for low-income families. Its workers do consciousness-raising and provide social, political and legal education and facilitate peaceful mobilization for housing and land reform
The main participants are those who take the survey and those who conduct the survey. The residents of all the katchi abadis in Islamabad are the survey participants. According to the CDA, there are 52 katchi abadis in Islamabad, exceeding a population of 100,000; only 10 settlements are officially recognized by it due to APKAA’s efforts. As calculated by the Akhtar Hammed Khan Resource Center in 2009, the demographics are mostly ethnic and religious minorities, with 35% Punjabi Christians, 20% Pakhtuns and 10% Hazara/Kashmiri. The residents choose to participate in this community initiative because more information on their profiles, stories and homes will strengthen their case against CDA evictions in the Supreme Court petitions. The surveys are designed and implemented by AWP and APKAA volunteers and workers.
The main method is a community survey dedicated to creating a community database of unrecognized katchi abadis and their residents in Islamabad. The process is intended to support the Supreme Courtcase on the I-11 Katchi Abadi demolition and affordable housing.
Deliberations and Decisions
The organizations decided to conduct their own community surveys because the CDA has yet to follow through with Supreme Court orders in the I-11 case to conduct surveys of katchi abadis for official recognition. The surveys are meant to contribute information to the ongoing case on katchi abadis and the right to affordable housing in the Supreme Court. The CDA continues to use the lack of registration as grounds for eviction and denying official recognition.
Thus far, the volunteers for APKAA and AWP have surveyd the Miskeen-Musharraf colony G-8 and G-7. The efforts are in hopes of the CDA never using the claim of inadequate existing records of an abadi in court as a ground to deny residents a right to shelter (as it did in the case of I-11).
The surveys also are an opportunity to map needs and issues of the particular communities such as the CDA cutting off water sources to the H-9 Katchi Abadi. AWP members built a tubewell to provide the community with a water source through a collective community-managed initiative funded by AWP donor Noor Mir and other local supporters. The survey seeks to collect data on unmet needs of the community to file a legal claim that the CDA has failed to meet its constitutional responsibility to provide water, sanitation, housing etc. to residents of katchi abadis. The surveying process also includes regular meetings between residents and community leaders to discuss how to pressure governments to recognize district-level decision-making and delegate power and responsibility to union councils, with 3 AWP members and former residents of I-11 as elected councilors.
There is very little information available online on the content and style of the surveys and the interactions between participants. However, APKAA regularly post Facebook pictures of each successful abadi surveyed, protests and meetings.
Influence and Outcomes
The greatest result of the Awami Workers’ Party’s constitutional petition against the demolition of the Sector I-11 Katchi Abadi was the Supreme Court’s order to CDA to create an affordable housing plan for Islamabad’s katchi abadis. However, there has been little to no efforts to heed its request. The recent evictions of I-10 illustrate this. There is also a growing level of corruption, embezzlement and neglect of land encroachment within the institution of CDA which is halting its capacity to respond to the housing needs of abadi residents. The surveying project has played a major role in raising awareness, strengthening the claims of the residents and organizing coalitional efforts of protest and advocacy for the residents’ rights to housing.
Criticism and Analysis
The organic movement, despite its mass efforts at mobilization, lobbying and protest is faced with a serious deadlock in progress due to widespread corruption within the Pakistani political and judicial system. The CDA as a central institution has yet to be challenged by any accountability watchdogs or agencies for its (in)actions and unfulfilled promises. In the few cases that there is criticism of the CDA, by an official organ of the state, it is focused on different issues such as who it hires and their personal agendas in expanding katchi abadis.
A timeline of the katch abadi case: http://awamiworkersparty.org/campaigns/katchi-abadi-timeline/