It seems as if there is a scarcity of practical and inclusive solutions in the Islamabad High Court which recently directed the Capital Development Authority to ‘clear’ all illegal slums within the city under a month’s deadline. These illegal slums – otherwise commonly known as katchi abaadi – are inhabited by abjectly poor families who have no other choice but to earn whatever they can through begging, collecting trash and recycling it and often other unpleasant jobs while living in the city. Their residence – if one wants to call poorly constructed one-room houses that – is a result of having no other place to live unless they choose to reside on the outskirts of the city.

Progress in developing sectors in the capital is commendable but the solution to ‘clearing up’ slum populations is not a simple equation of telling them to beat the street; it is a lot more complicated than that and involves lives of people disenfranchised by economic precarity further neglected by the federal government. The first question that any sensible person should ask is: Where do these dwellers go then? The earth will not swallow them up nor will the sky lift them into its space. They are citizens just like those passing the order in the Islamabad High Court.

Although the IHC claimed that the CDA will provide a ‘cover’ to those once removed from the slums, it is difficult to believe that any action will follow that statement given the past performance of both institutions. A pragmatic approach to illegal slums is not more gentrification through mass ‘clearing up’ but a sincere effort by capital authorities to relocate these families to a safer and more stable environment so they do not have to break the law simply because they have no other place to live in.