ISLAMABAD - The interior ministry has put on hold the planned operation against slums in Islamabad, as the top UN official for refugees will be landing in the federal capital on Tuesday (today).

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Pakistan, during his three-day visit would meet top government officials including the president and prime minister, besides inaugurating projects to support refugee hosting communities.

The visit by top UN official for refugees, according to official sources, triggered authorities concerned to direct Capital Development Authority (CDA) for putting on hold the ongoing operation against slum dwellers including Afghan refugees.

The enforcement directorate of CDA assisted by police has flattened over 400 houses of slum dwellers in the outskirts of Islamabad, besides rooting out tents of Afghan refugees in H-10 and I-10 sectors, drawing severe criticism from the affected families.

The demolition campaign of CDA has also forced Afghan embassy in Islamabad to send its representatives to the civic agency for granting certain time to the Afghan refugees so that the dwellers could voluntarily return to their native country.

The UNHCR has also requested the authorities to sympathetically look into the issue as the refugees were vulnerable to multiple risks in the hosting country and added that arrangements were under way to voluntarily repatriate the refugees.

The CDA supported by ruling PML-N lawmakers including Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was all set on April 24 for launching a decisive operation against the biggest slum locality I-11 where apart from local occupants Afghan refugees have also taken shelters since years.

"More than three meetings have taken place in the interior ministry for purging I-11 of illegal occupants. Police and Rangers were told to assist us in the drive, besides alerting Wapda and Sui Gas authorities. We were all set for a grand operation on April 24 but we still await a go-ahead signal," Director Enforcement Muhammad Iqbal told this reporter on Monday.

A senior CDA official confided to The Nation that both Afghan embassy and UNHCR were not happy over the demolition of slum houses of Afghan refugees, adding that the sudden pause in the anti-encroachment drive was because of the anger shown by donor and humanitarian agencies.

"The CDA itself is not interested in recovering a piece of land from movable encroachers. It was the government that forced us to unleash a decisive campaign against the slum dwellers. We are autonomous body and principally we should not be dictated," an official remarked.

For the first time, the CDA would lay a barbed wire around the areas it vacated from slum dwellers in order to stop encroachers from occupying them again to what officials said would diminish the dream of poor people to have a shanty house in the federal capital.

According to UNHCR, Antonio will launch Solution Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) during a ceremony that will be attended by Minister for States and Frontier Region (SAFRON) Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch on Wednesday.