Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) have bulldozed 115 houses of Christian slum dwellers of Nawaz Sharif Colony at H-9/2 Islamabad
Authorities left all Muslims houses in the same slum untouched while targeting the homes of deprived Christian sewage, drainage and domestic cleaning workers.
During the operation, demolition workers stole woven charpai (rope beds), blankets, kitchen utensils and other valuable items.
Officers have told Christian leaders they plan to resume the operation immediately after Christmas.
Over 115 families have been forced to live in tents, and other make-shift homes in the bitter cold of Islamabad’s winter.
On 18th October 2022, officers of Islamabad’s CDA and ICT began a crackdown on illegal Christian shanty town’s in Pakistan’s capital city.
Without warning, Christians who had been preparing for a days work, were faced with teams of men with pickaxes, mallets and a steady stream of bulldozers and cranes. All the assembled visitors were intent on destroying the homes Christians had built through working their hands to the bone over many years. In fact, Each Christian family had built their own homes using cement and breeze blocks.
The houses that were demolished were located at Shahbaz Sharif Colony at the outskirts of Rimsha Colony. The demolition team was led by Deputy Director of Encroachment and Police Inspector Dost Muhammad who had been authorised to take this action against Christians, but it seems orders required them to ignore all Muslim homes in the shanty town.
115 were demolished in one day leaving more than 115 families destitute. Worse still these Christians faced the ignominy of watching the men involved in the destruction of their homes, taking away all their valuables while destroying everything else they had, unable to prevent the loss.
Christian families have now resorted to living in tents and make-shift homes made from sheets, bits of plastic and other material they have been able to salvage. These beleaguered Christians now have to face a bitterly cold winter without blankets, bedding under conditions of minimum heat insulation.
Mrs Sabra Saeed a local resident of Nazaz Sharif Colony, spoke with British Asian Christian Association, she said:
“[Authorities] have left the Muslim houses intact and targeted only the Christian areas of the colony.
“Christians hold pariah status in Pakistan.
“We have always been the most hated community, but this action beggars belief.
“We never believed that our government could do this to us – it has been so demoralising.
“Our children can’t sleep, mothers weep inconsolably and our men would lose all hope if it was not for our faith in God.”
To make matters worse, provincial authorities have already cut all water supply and the gas and electric power from this community, since October. A local resident who chose to withhold his identity, described how families are surviving. he said:
“We chop wood from the trees of a local jungle, to produce heat for cooking and warming our make-shift homes.
“We take these risks even though we can be arrested for stealing wood from the jungle.
“What other choice have we got?”
Another resident of Nawaz Sharif Colony, explained the fears of the community, he said:
“When we go to work all we think about is what will be left of our tents and make-shift homes.
“We do not know if our children will have a roof over their heads when we return from work.
“Worse still our children are now vulnerable and will be easy prey for sexual predators, we have no choice but to trust God.
“We have to earn or we cannot put food on our tables.”
British Asian Christian Association, has opened an appeal for these families, we will purchase rope beds, tents, bedding, and warm clothes for these families to help them through the cold winters ahead. We would like to raise around £2000 for this fund. If you have been moved by the plight of these families and would like to help, please donate (here).
There are around 400 houses in Nawaz Sharif Colony. The poor residents work as road sweepers and sewerage drainers on a very meager salary, around 15,000 to 20,000 Pak-Rupees (£57-£80) a month. With such a minute salary they cannot afford the high rents in main city. For different reasons, mostly the fear of persecution, theses Christians have settled here from different cities of Punjab, mostly Narowal, Sheikhupura, Faisalabad, and Lahore. These stigmatized workers live a challenging life, they face hatred, work discrimination and violence and struggle to make ends meet economically.
There are around 17 Katchi Abadis (shanty towns) around the outskirts of Islamabad. Most of these are populated by Christians working as road sweepers and sewage cleaners earning a pittance for extremely hard and unappreciated labour. Residents in these shanty towns live in a mixture of tents 0r the more successful families live in cement block buildings that they have strived hard to pay for on tiny salaries. All of these homes are established around the sewage systems of Islamabad on unwanted lands that have in more recent years have had their ownership designated to provincial government.
Rimsha Colony, Akram Gill Colony and Nawaz Sharif Colony are aligned in H-9/2 sector of Islamabad.
Rimsha Colony was established in 2012 after the Christian inhabitants of Meharabad, Jaffar, fled their houses when 11-year old Rimsha Masih was accused of burning pages of Quran. Over 80 Christian families left their ancestral homes to save their lives from a violent mob consisting of over 10,000 irate Muslims. These families settled at H-9 sector, in the outskirts of Islamabad.
Rimsha Masih who was known to have a mental impairment was later exonerated of the crime, when it was discovered a local Imam had burnt and torn shreds of the Koran, and had placed them in a bag which he gave to Rimsha Masih. The Imam was accused of this act by one of his own deputies who stated that the Imam had done so to implicate a Christian, in order to clear the community of the chura (derogatory term meaning filthy Christians). The Imam was later forgiven for his crimes but the Christians did not return to their homes and were never compensated by the Government of Pakistan.
In 2015, the Capital Development Authority after receiving complaints from local Muslim elites began the process for eviction of all Christians from the slums, because of fears of ritual impurity.
The CDA filed an application against the Christian squatter settlements in Islamabad and this was rejected in both the Islamabad High Court in April 2021 (click here) and earlier Pakistan’s Supreme Court in August 2015 (click here). It is not known whether the courts have approved the recent demolitions, but if they have it seems only for homes belonging to Christians.
These slum areas are mostly inhabited by poverty-stricken Christians from different areas of Pakistan. In their application to the Supreme Court, the CDA humiliated the Christian slum dwellers saying these Christians have ruined the landscape of one of the most beautiful cities of the world, turning it into slums. Read more (here)
Instead of helping these Christians relocate, or developing more aesthetically pleasing homes as they are required to do. The CDA have chosen to make them destitute. Whilst doing so, they have made very clear their agenda is based on race hatred as Muslim slum-dwellers have been receiving much better treatment.
Christians have settled in the capital city slums for job opportunities in provincial government doing the lowest paid jobs that Muslim refuse to do. They play a vital role to the economic and social life of the city, mainly working as road sweepers and sewage workers.
Though without this community the provincial government would not be able to complete essential utility services, they have chosen to mistreat further an already disenfranchised community. ‘It makes no sense its simply vitriolic,’ said BACA’s Operations Manager.
Sabra Saeed (39 yrs) a local resident of Rimsha Colony told us,
“CDA has cut the power and water supply months ago”
“Yet we have continued to live here because we have no other place to move to.
“This is very basic survival – but it feels like death.”
“I have heard that Authorities have plans to link the city of Islamabad and Rawalpindi by road.
“Most of our slum houses fall in the pathway of such a development.
“For many years local businessmen have also tried to buy the land from the Government and this may just be a plot to eradicate our presence for sale of commercial plots.
“Either way Christians have always been hated and Muslim authorities are doing their best to rid us from this area.”
The CDA has identified 44 Katchi Abadis (shanty towns) to be demolished and have authorized the use of force to evict the residents of these settlements.
The National Housing Policy 2001, ratified by the Federal Government clearly safeguards the rights of these slum dwellers. The policy declares that there shall not be any eviction from a katchi abadi unless the residents are relocated as per resettlement plans (para 5.2.1).
“‘Informal settlements comprising more than 40 houses’, which can be registered and regularised based on when they were built. The preferred official policy is to improve the abadis where they are, but if any abadi is to be removed for extraordinary reasons, that can only be done after working out a detailed resettlement plan in consultation with the residents.’”
It specifies policy guidelines for low-cost housing, slums and katcha Abadis and states:
“(xiii) The Ministry of Housing and Works in coordination with the provincial governments should develop a package for improving the living conditions in katcha abadis and slums.
“The dangerously located slums should be shifted to alternate locations on state land within the cities under a smooth and organized manner. For this purpose low-cost housing schemes should be developed.”
Read more (here)
The National Housing Policy requires local authorities to improve services and utilities to Shanty Towns in the country. Under section titled ‘Katchi Abadis’ within the Housing policy it states:
“viii) The standards of services/ utilities being provided in Katchi Abadis should be improved incrementally.”
Provincial authorities however, have targeted Christians by removing such utilities. There seems to be little if any objection to it, by a Federal Government, acutely devoid of any care for a hated minority.
The first point about Katchi Abadis in the Housing Policy, refers to a Government Servants Housing Programme, which an earlier paragraph describes a desire to ’emphasize low-income groups’ in the ‘all grades’ scheme.
i) The programme should be de-emphasized in favor of genuine low-income housing areas with the objective that emergence of new Katchi Abadis is stopped.
Though nearly 100% of these Christians work for the Provincial Government they all seem to have been overlooked in what ostensibly looks like an civil-service employee affordable housing project. This despite the fact that if any were means-tested the outcome would be an inevitable recognition of low-income status. Fortunately, the local Muslim slum-dwellers seem to have been recognized and soon will no doubt be relocated to better homes under this programme:
“vii) Katchi Abadis on prime locations should be offered reasonable alternate sites for relocation or accommodated on a portion of the location in high-density development. The remaining areas should be sold to generate funds for developing the low-income areas.”
We are certain that the same Muslim families will be prioritised for the available microloans to help them get a foot on a more stable property ladder:
“ix) Community loans for house construction/ improvement should be considered under the micro credit programmes.”
BACA highly doubts considering al that has happened to these Christians that any of that financial or housing assistance will be provided to Christians. This is despite several interventions from Members of European Parliament (MEP) from several western nations (click here).
Read National Housing Policy (here)
In the meanwhile, the CDA and ICT continue to use any means to eradicate anathema Christians who cause an irritancy to sensitive devout Muslims, frightened of their ritual impurity.
Juliet Chowdhry, said:
“This demolition is a disgraceful act.
“The whole purpose of listing the Katchi Abadi concern in the National Housing Policy of Pakistan, was to prevent demolitions like this and to protect vulnerable poverty -stricken citizens.
“The protections in this policy have been ignored by provincial authorities who detest ritually impure Christians, who they feel make the area unclean.
“Alternative housing should have been provided to beleaguered Christians, alongside microgrants and loans to help relocation.
“Instead Christians have been subjected to intolerable blatant animosity and depredation.
“Now hundreds of families face a cold winter, without a home or essential utilities and amenities.
“The clear bias of these attacks is tangible evidence of the pariah status of Christians in Pakistan.”
“Families here survived the record-breaking floods this year.
“They received no flood-support but instead the Pak-Government has destroyed homes that resisted the floods and have stolen all their valuables.
“Now they face the uncertain survival of their communities with potentially larger inundations expected.
“The precarious positioning of their homes near a sewage canal is a ticking time-bomb.
“The depraved nature of Governmental authorities that have knowingly placed citizens in such danger, is a worrying concern.”