Poor have same rights as PM, president: SC

Source:  Tribune Published in Current Affairs on Tuesday, September 08, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has directed the federal and provincial governments to submit reports regarding allocation of funds in budgets for providing housing to low-income groups in the last 14 years.

A three judge bench headed by Chief Justice Jawwad S Khawaja was hearing identical petitions against the demolition of the Sector I-11 katchi abadi by Capital Development Authority (CDA).

The bench said its orders of August 26 and 31 shall continue. “Until next hearing, no action adverse to katchi abadis shall be taken,” said the order.

During the hearing, the chief justice (CJ) questioned why the state failed to enforce articles 9, 14, 25 and 38 of the Constitution in the last 42 years. “Tell us you need more than 42 years for ensuring the basic rights of people,” the CJ asked the additional attorney general (AAG).

The court observed that the poor are entitled to the same basic and fundamental rights as enjoyed by the president and prime minister.

The bench asked the federal and provincial governments that the report should include how much funds were allocated, what were the targets and what is the success ratio. It said after the report is submitted an appropriate order will be passed in accordance with the Constitution.

AAG Aamir Rehamn submitted before the court that a national housing policy was made in 2011 while policy guidelines for katchi abadis were framed in 2001. He further said in 2014, a scheme ‘Apna Ghar’ was launched.

Abid Hassan Manto, counsel for the petitioners, submitted that after filing this instant petition, lots of people facing the same problems approached him. He said the people of I-11 had been living there for 20 to 30 years but now the CDA says the slum is illegal. Justice Dost Muhammad asked who were those officials who had approved these katchi abadis which were illegal?

He observed that 20 per cent dwellers in the I-11 katchi abadi work at the nearby fruit and vegetable market while the rest work at houses of government officials.

In his reply, Manto submitted reports on behalf of Tasneem Siddiqui, a planning expert, on the development of shelters for slum residents.

“This is a vital issue which is not properly addressed,” Justice Dost remarked, adding if the government is unable to launch any scheme for the shelter-less than the task can be assigned to two private housing companies which are expert in the field.

During the hearing, AG Balochistan Ayyaz Swati told the court there is no policy for katchi abadis in the province while AAG Razzaq Mirza said soon a policy would be made for slums in the province.

The CJ told him they need to take concrete steps for welfare of slum dwellers.

The hearing was then adjourned till September 21.