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Resistance to police action is terrorism, senators told

Resistance to police action is terrorism, senators told

ISLAMABAD: A city police officer surprised a Senate committee by justifying the arrest of slum dwellers under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for resisting the recent bulldozing of the Sector I-11 katchi abadi.

“Police is an instrument of the government and were providing security cover to the Islamabad administration which wanted the illegal settlement cleared. The law is clear on resisting government actions,” DIG headquarters Khalid Khattak told the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat on Tuesday.

But the members of the committee were baffled rather than impressed by his defence of the heavy-handed action, which uprooted some 10,000 inhabitants of the slum on July 31.

“This is not why the anti-terror act was enacted. It cannot be used at free will,” said Senator Kalsoom Parveen, with other committee members nodding in unison.

The administration and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) conducted the demolition operation in the name of clearing the area for developing residential sectors and fighting crime.

An adjournment motion moved by Senator Sitara Ayaz, critical of the rationale and ‘brute force’ the administration, CDA and the police used in carrying out the operation, brought the issue before the Senate committee. None of the committee members agreed to DIG Khattak’s plea to appreciate the support the police extended to the administration in carrying out the operation.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Mohammad Talha Mehmood, said the forum supported clearing of the slum but could not endorse the police invoking the ATA for such purposes.

“The government evicted people and razed their houses. Anyone would resist in such a situation,” he said.

Though the committee members agreed that the Anti-Terrorism Act was wrongly used in the operation, they somehow missed the loaded remark of DIG Khattak during the heated discussion that “I will do it again if required.”

Police were fired upon during the operation, the officer asserted. However, the committee promptly rejected his assertion, especially Senators Kalsoom Parveen and Sitara Ayaz who were witness to the operation.

About 66 inhabitants of the slum were arrested for resisting the police, five of whom are in judicial lock-up. People on both sides were hurt.

The committee held the CDA responsible for the growth of illegal settlements in Sector I-11. Senators Hidayatullah and Mir Mohammad Yousuf Badini and others said the illegal slum grew over the years with the connivance of CDA officials.

DIG Khattak agreed with them. “It could not have gotten this worse without CDA’s connivance,” he said, supporting the Senators’ demand for a legal action against the corrupt officials in the CDA.

CDA’s Director General Lands, Hamza Shafaqat, told them that an inquiry had been initiated. “The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been provided records of the past 10 years and junior and senior CDA officials who dealt with the matter (growth of slums) during that period,” he said, promising legal actions against the guilty.

According to official sources, 3,000 to 4,000 Afghan refugees, who had settled in Sector I-11, had been repatriated to their homeland by 2002, leaving some 25 families in their mud houses.

After 2005, the slum started growing again with a steady flow of illegal settlers over the next seven years.

“The country was occupied with the relief work for earthquake victims and the growth of slums went unnoticed,” said Mr Shafaqat.

According to the CDA official, the demolition operation became necessary to fight crime as 150 cases of criminal incidents were registered in the preceding six months.

The Senate committee did not reach any conclusion on Tuesday and put off its decision until it meets again.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2015

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