ISLAMABAD - A small hut supported by two thin wooden pillars was a sweet home for eight-year old Dilruba, an Afghan refugee girl until the demolition squad of Capital Development Authority (CDA) flattened her abode along with hundreds of other houses as the capital's premium civic agency plans to level all shanties for ensuring peace in Islamabad.
For little Dilruba, the shanty house in I-10 sector was not less than a heaven as she recalls the good memories of her life associated with a hut house in a shantytown that virtually disappeared in hours after CDA's bulldozers assisted by police force leveled slums in I-10 and H-10 sectors on April 14.
"I was born in this house. I would play' hide and seek' with friends. I don't know what happened to my friends? My parents want to build house somewhere away from this area and I don't like this," the little refugee girl told The Nation on Wednesday.
According to officials, CDA has so far demolished over 300 slum houses evicting more than 2000 individuals from shanty homes while another grand operation is in the offing to flatten the biggest slum locality in I-11 where according to officials, 15000 to 20000 poor people had taken refuge since years. The civic agency backed by political support of the ruling PML-N regime plans to bulldoze 12 similar slum areas that according to an estimate will cause eviction of 40,000 poor people.
On Wednesday thousands of affected slum dwellers took to street and staged a protest demonstration outside the National Press Club venting anger over what they termed 'biased' approach of government arguing that how could they be terrorists or illegal occupants when they had cast votes in the general election last year.
"The Islamabad administration has dubbed all slum dwellers as terrorists. On the contrary we leave houses early in the morning for earning livelihood and return homes late in the evening. We all are poor and we have no place to take refuge except for slums," Noor Muhammad, President All Katchi Abadi Association, remarked.
But officials put the blame on city planners for designing posh residential sectors in Islamabad only for rich class arguing that except for F-6 and F-7 sectors where only 248 small units had been spared for poor class (sanitary workers), the rest of residential sectors are too expensive to be afforded by poor or middle class people.
"The major reason behind the increase in shanty houses is that the plots in residential areas cannot be afforded by poor people to live. Just imagine that the only residential sector (I-15) announced in 2005 for poor people is yet to be developed where price of 5-marla plot has sky-rocketed to Rs2.5 million," a CDA official said.
Muhammad Iqbal, Director Enforcement CDA, whose office undertakes the demolition drive in the capital, told The Nation the government wanted his office to clear all slum areas on the grounds that the inhabitants posed security threat to Islamabad besides hosting suspicious elements in houses.
The director added that slum areas were disturbing the beauty of the green capital and also explained that the occupants had encroached precious landmass in the federal capital.
But he declined to comment on a query regarding the illegal occupation of CDA's 1400-kanal land by a mighty private developer along Kurri Road adding that he needed nod of high echelons ahead of clearing any illegal occupation.
Slum dwellers in outskirts of Islamabad where houses have been razed also question the inaction of CDA on taking action against illegal occupants in posh sectors like F-6, F-7, G-12 which, according to the affected families, were in close proximity with important national institutions like PM House, Presidency, Supreme Court, Foreign Office and many other government offices.
Inhabitants of I-11 slum area on Wednesday threatened to resist any government's move of demolition drive until they were not given alternate place for living and announced that they would stage a massive sit-in at D Chowk on May 7.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is equally concerned over the flattening of Afghan refugee houses in slum areas and has requested the authorities to ensure relocation of the affected families at another site.