“The site was the I-11 katchi abadi, one of Islamabad’s largest and oldest informal squatter settlements, which had been earmarked for demolition by the capital’s bureaucratic managers in the CDA, as part of a wider ‘anti-encroachment’ drive targeting other residential settlements and roadside vending stalls.
15,000 residents of I-11 abadi were given one week’s notice to vacate their homes of decades, following which they were besieged militarily for days. Eventually, their homes were forcibly demolished and dozens of residents were arrested under the Anti-Terrorist Act for their attempts to resist.”
Accumulation by dispossession is a concept presented by the Marxist geographerDavid Harvey. It defines neoliberal capitalist policies that result in a centralization of wealth and power in the hands of a few by dispossessing the public and private entities of their wealth or land.
“The political economy of war and ‘counterterrorism’ — the vast majority of the abadi’s residents were Pashtuns who out-migrated from war-weary north-west Pak–Afghan border zones into cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi over the past three to four decades.
Military personnel, civil administrators, mainstream politicians and the corporate media regularly invoke threats to the ‘development’ of Pakistan’s cities from this growing underclass.
As the demand for real estate, malls and roads on the part of the city’s upwardly mobile segments grows, the latter buy into tropes of ‘security’ and ‘rule of law’ peddled in statist and dominant media narratives.
In short, a distinctly urbane, middle-class aspiration to partake of more ‘development’ translates into support for military-style operations to cleanse the city of undesirable elements
“The dialectical other of the military’s real estate adventures in the 80s was the massive influx of refugees from both Afghanistan and the Pakistan side of the Pak–Afghan border into cities like Karachi and Quetta, as well as Islamabad. Later characterised by the epithet ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs), this perpetually dispossessed mass would settle on city outskirts in what were effectively refugee camps, slowly but surely building shanty homes whilst generating precarious incomes, mostly in the service sector. I-11 katchi abadi was one such settlement.
“In contrast to propertied classes, the toiling classes do not enjoy security of tenure, the threat of coercion against their ‘illegal’ occupation of notionally ‘public’ land hanging like the proverbial sword of Damocles over their heads.
At particular conjunctures, this threat materialises into reality, dispossession and development hence forming dialectical parts of a contradictory social totality, the systemic and systematic processes inherent to capitalist accumulation playing out dramatically for all the world to see.”
“In the aftermath of the I-11 abadi demolition, the Pashtun evictees suffered the ignominy of being denied rental accommodations in the wider Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area following a widespread propaganda campaign led by the CDA and ICT administration to warn landlords against taking on Pashtuns as tenants.”
“We made these homes through hard toil, working day and night to supply Islamabad’s elite with basic needs. This city cannot function without our labour, rich people’s homes and offices cannot survive. But they don’t care. The only thing they care about is the land. Who cares about working people like us?”
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