HRCP demands responsible action in Islamabad land recovery drive

Lahore: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the authorities engaged in an anti- encroachment operation in Sector I-11 of Islamabad to act in a responsible manner and to pay attention to the housing needs of the people being evicted.

In a statement, the Commission said: HRCP does not justify encroachment and understands the need for action to recover illegally occupied land. However, it must ask the authorities engaged in the Sector I-11 action to consider where the people uprooted in the operations will go.

Surely, the authorities can understand that the slums being cleared today do not offer the ideal lodging and given a choice most of the people would not have settled there. With respect, the point that the authorities are missing is that eviction from the slums will not make these people disappear. They will simply have to look for a home elsewhere.

The manner in which the operation is being carried out also ignores the state’s duty to provide shelter and other amenities to its citizens. We hope the government will simultaneously consider ways to resettle the evicted families, providing them with viable, alternative lodgings. Such an action would not be seen as softening of the stance against encroachment; on the contrary, it would be considered a civilised and considerate action by a government awake to its obligations. HRCP also emphasises the importance of due process for the dozens of people arrested for offering resistance when their houses were being bulldozed.

On another note, if the action in Sector I-11 was considered necessary because of supposed presence of criminal elements in the slums, merely dispersing the ‘criminals’ does not make much sense. Another dimension of this action is the issue of Afghan and non-Afghan slum dwellers. In that respect, what would happen to the uprooted Afghans must be considered. Many would be shifted to refugee camps. Moving them to camps is at best a temporary solution and exposes the serious shortcomings of the repatriation policy that need to be paid attention to.”

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