The rise in illegal settlements in the forests of Islamabad without any meaningful resistance from responsible authorities is confusing. According to CDA officials, property belonging to the government has been sold at cheap rates to immigrants arriving from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Murree and some other underdeveloped areas. Reportedly, the concerned areas have experienced rampant encroachment of government property and construction of illegal houses. Its impact on the forest itself is all too visible. The area once covered with trees and plants, now hosts unplanned concrete structures and pathways that lead to them. The habitat is also experiencing unnecessary exploitation at the hands of the “timber mafia.” In a country where less than 5% of the land is covered by forests, more deforestation must be prevented at all costs.

One cannot help but question the dubious role of the relevant authorities and local politicians with regards to these unfortunate developments. It would be extremely naïve to believe that all this went on unnoticed. What really happened here is that someone decided to look the other way. The officials propose that the structures should be demolished, and one cannot disagree with it. They also claim that the courts are creating problems by issuing stay orders in favour of the illegal residents, and they might be right about that too. However, one must ask them whether they share any responsibility for letting all this happen in the first place. Will culprits be brought before the law to answer for their complicity or incompetence, whatever the case maybe?

These settlements also pose a serious security threat to the rest of the capital as pointed out in reports produced by the Interior Ministry. Inaction from the government will further add to the vulnerability of a severely exposed Islamabad. If it doesn’t want a repeat of the Islamabad Courts Complex attack, it should directly intervene, and empower authorities to carry out necessary action.