Monday, 21 December 2015

CDA urged SC to make poor Christian homeless

CDA urged SC to make poor Christian homeless
Shamim Masih

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is made for all its citizens, irrespective to their religion and its government responsibility to provide shelter to every citizen. But Capital Development Authority (CDA) has requested the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) to allow CDA to take action along with other Government Departments, against the Christians dwellers in the capital and the residents may be returned to their native areas. This is very unfortunate that Christian parliamentarian and clergy are still silent in the country.

Christian dwellers had found their living place around the seasonal drainage (Nalaas) of Islamabad for more than three decades. They are constantly living under threat though serving in CDA and their women and children are serving the well-to-do families in the capital. Most of them work as laborer, housekeepers, street cleaner but the authorities has not provided them housing facilities. Their children are starving and families choose to sell themselves into slavery for survival, illustrated that humanity has left the nation of Pakistan.

Living across the seasonal drainages (Nalaas) and mostly affected by the flood every year in the rainy season but no disaster recovery plan or infrastructure has been put in place to enhance their safety and security. Victims lost most of their possessions every year which washed away with their homes or irretrievably ruined by water surge. But they again manage their livings. Many of them have been drowned during the raining season and died, left their children helpless. These people are living without no proper drainage system, no pure water facility, no regular electricity and gas facility provided by CDA.

Earlier Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered to demolish the slums of Islamabad. In the recent report submitted to the apex court CDA has not only declared the influx as a threat to the numerical superiority of Muslims in the capital city but bashes slum residents as land grabbing migrants who, presumably, do not contribute to the development of this country. The word “ugly” manifest repeatedly in the report as a description of the slums: They “look like ugly villages” in the beautiful city of Islamabad. They’re “ugly slums which present bad picture even (more) than ancient slums of neighboring city of Rawalpindi” Dawn reported. This is totally inhuman behavior adopted towards the Christian resident and against ethnic norms.

The most unsettling element of the report is the implication that the religion of the slum-residents makes them more problematic than usual.  The CDA report states: It is necessary to identify the fact that most of the katchi abadis are under the occupation of the Christian community who are shifted from Narowal, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Kasur, Sahiwal and Faisalabad and occupied the Government land so badly as if It has been allotted to them and it seems this pace of occupation of land may affect the Muslim majority of the capital. This statement offers a glimpse into the minds of those who are part of the slum eradication drive.

The CDA has no plan to shift or provide alternate land and financial compensation to the dwellers and wanted them to send back to their native areas. Evocation is violation of human rights of the poor. This clearly shows the mindset of the present government that divides Pakistanis on religion lines. The constitution guarantees the right to shelter to every citizen and no one should be removed from Islamabad on the basis of religion. Asim Sajjad, President Awami Watin Party (AWP) said that he was shocked to see the report CDA has submitted to the SC to justify its actions against the Christians dwellers of the capital. Religious minorities should not be targeted on the basis of their religion. “Either no one checks such hooplas in the CDA or it has a policy to remove Christians from the city, he added. Falak Sher resident of H 9 colony said that his family is displaced from Mehrabadi like many others after the religious animosity gripped the slum after the cleric accused a young Christian girl, Rimsha of burning Quran. They settled down in H 9 but the CDA has planned to displace them again just because of their faith.

The ruling party Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) is evidently considered against the Christians in the country. Most of the inhuman retort, like burning Christian couple, burning Christian colonies after accusing any Christian had been in Punjab during its rule. Death plenty punishment was being added in blasphemy law by the God father of Nawaz Sharif, (Gen Zia ul Haq). PML-N leader was reportedly behind the burning of the hundreds of the Christens’ houses including two churches in Joseph Colony, Lahore in March, 2013. Now during the rule of the said party the civic agency plans to demolish 41 slums in different sectors of the capital and few of them are Christian populated. Earlier CDA informed the SC that katchi abadis will be demolished in four phases but no time frame was given to execute the plan.

Under phase I, the slums to be knocked down are: Street 17 of Sector I-10/1, Sector H-11/2 Kashmir Highway, Roshan Colony Sector I-12, Christian Colony Sector G-6/1-4, Dhobi Ghat G-6/2, Sector F-8/1 Nazimuddin Road, Green Belt H-12 and I-12 behind NUST, Muzaffar Colony H-11/4, Musharraf Colony G-8/4, Muhallah Dori Bagh, Miskeen Colony G-8/4, Shopper Colony G-7 Markaz, Sector H-9 and Bari Imam Katchi Abadi.
Likewise, 11 katchi abadis will be removed under phase II. They are: Chak Shahzad (PIA), Chak Shahzad Pona Faqiran, Dhoke Pathan Chamber Road Abadi, Dhoke Pathan (Sahila), Khanna Pull, New Shkrial katchi abadi, Shams Colony Bhangra Road, Rawat, Sumbal at Korak Town, Junejo Colony, Mohriyan and NIH Colony. Five similar colonies are slated to be demolished under phase III. They are: Bheka Syedan F-11, Sectors G-12, F-12, E-12 behind Khushian Wali Sarkar and I-11/2 Bakra and Surain. In phase IV, the slums to be removed are located at Sectors G-7/1, G-7/2 (66 quarters), G-7/3-2 (48 quarters), F-6/2, F-7/4 France Colony, Hansa Colony G-8/1, Essa Nagri I-9/1 and Muslim Colony, Bari Imam.

Unfortunately Christian parliamentarians do not bother to speak in the favor of Christians instead presenting “all well” reports. In 15 katchi abadis dwellers are Christians in the capital city and it is fear that if CDA takes action against these slum areas around 150,000 people will be on the roads. The action will displace the Christian community during the freezing cold season. 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Put Your House in order first!

Put Your House in order first!
Shamim Masih

ISLAMABAD: It was a sunny morning, my cell phone was ringing, and William Javed on the other side said that Punjab Government arrested Aslam Parvez Sohtra from Islamabad in the wake of Youhanabad demonstration after the twin blasts. It was shocking news for me, as Aslam Parvez Sohtra with his team was at my house a day before his arrest. He was planning to raise voice for the victims of Youhanabad but he himself became victim; since then nobody ever raised voice for his release. Earlier local media reported and declared Sohail Johnson as main source behind this outraged. Certainly he has to run out to save his skin. This is the result if you work as human right activist and raise voice for your people. I know these people have been devotedly working for the community. It is really shameful that some people from the same community have betrayed with them. This disloyalty is not with these people but with the community.
On March 15, 2015, at least 19 people were killed and more than 80 injured when two suicide bombers attacked two churches in Youhanabad, Lahore, sparking mob violence in which two other suspected militants died. After the incident Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif has not visited the people of his own constituency to showed solidarity, instead CM has visited one killer’s family and ensured them that people form Youhanabad had been arrested.
In the entire episode that has taken place, we have seen the double standards in how things are dealt with when Muslims are the victims are becoming obvious. After the death of two men, the media and everyone else conveniently forgot the dozens of victims from the Christian community, and the threat that looms over their heads because of the actions of a few individuals. Though Christians have repeatedly condemned the unfortunate incident from various platforms but the electronic media has shied away from airing other side of the story. No one talked about the people died saving lives. No one was talking about the victims or the survivors. There should be a balanced approach to the situation from our media friends.
After the incident the mob was like an unguided missile… when they reacted no one was there to handle them neither police nor Christian leadership. The situation could have been controlled if the mob had been dispersed by bringing the leadership in, but leaderships were not seen on the ground. Any community has two leaderships, one is the political and the other is the top clergy. It is very unfortunate that our both leaders have had no statement of purpose or plan of action to deal with such situations. Unfortunately politicians have lost their trustworthiness and clergy is busy in selling church properties etc. missionary work has turned to business instead service. Clergy is not serving the nation but busy in making money. Educational institutions established under church based organization meant to serve the nation are not taking Christian students in. Big churches have ample development funds if it spends some percentage for the betterment of the community there is no doubt that Christian community will track on prosperity. There are many small churches but bigger refuse to coordinate with them. NGO sector run by Christian management is working for their vested interests. Thus the poor Christian community is seen in this meager condition.

There is routine discrimination/persecution seen around but there are number of major incidents happened like Shantinager, Sangla Hill, Gojra, Joseph colony, youhanabad etc. Even after these many incidents, I don’t see the Christian leadership neither clergy nor political showing seriousness that is expected of them. What ever happened cannot be undone but the people that are left need to be protected. Unless we are united we can’t build pressure for our rights, we won’t count for anything, and we can’t mould the government or do any opinion building. I am sure if we put our house in order, we all will lead happier life.