The Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) move to issue notices to 15 of its employees after an inquiry found them to be complicit in land-grabbing in the katchi abadi areas on the outskirts of the Federal Capital should be appreciated, for it is not often that a government organisation throws one (or more) of their own under the bus. Land-grabbing is a very common criminal activity in Pakistan and is carried out with impunity throughout the country. However, with regards to katchi abadis, it is a whole different scenario. The poorest of the poor of the capital live in these places, and cannot afford the otherwise expensive lifestyle of the city. The city benefits from the very important role these people play in the city’s economy. Yet the government has done nothing to provide for them, which is why they must look after themselves in whatever way they can. The corrupt CDA employees however, were not allowing encroachments for the greater good, but monetary gain. Their part in this deserves punishment.

The government is essentially failing on two grounds in this case. The first, is those that have no place to go other than the land they have found empty and have built katchi abadis on. The rights of a squatter are completely ignored in Pakistan, and yet we fail to realise that it is the government’s responsibility to look after those that need it most. Building a home in one place after giving cutbacks to CDA officials, only to be told to move elsewhere without compensation can ruin a family. Just telling the people who live there to move without making arrangements is contemptible.

On a second level, by not providing alternative housing to those living in the katchi abadis, the government is overlooking its responsibility to protect some of the most fundamental individual property rights. The land is CDA owned, and CDA employees supposedly facilitated its occupation. Now while this land is not theirs to give, the people that live there have paid for it, and even have electricity connections installed, which means that another government institution, WAPDA was also aware that this was taking place. Where was the government when all of this was happening? The government cannot expect the people that live their to uproot their lives without first guaranteeing them a place they can go to. New homes must be provided, and corrupt officials involved in this should be brought to justice.