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Church, rights leaders slam Pakistan plan to raze Christian slums

Government agency says slum-dwellers are 'occupying' public land

Shamim Masih, Islamabad

Shamim Masih, Islamabad

Published: December 17, 2015 10:08 AM GMT

Updated: December 16, 2015 10:52 PM GMT

Church, rights leaders slam Pakistan plan to raze Christian slums

A European Union delegation visits a slum in Islamabad on Oct. 3. The Capital Development Authority said slums, inhabited mostly by Christians, threatened the numerical superiority of Muslims. (Photo by Shamim Masih)

Pakistani church leaders and rights activists have denounced government plans to demolish dozens of Christian-majority slums in Islamabad.

In a report submitted to the Supreme Court, the Capital Development Authority said the slums represented a threat to the numerical superiority of Muslims in the capital city.

The report said the slums looked "like ugly villages" that damaged the image of the nation's capital. The report also referred to slum dwellers as "occupying" land that belonged to the government.

"It is necessary to identify the fact that most of the katchi abadis (slums) are under the occupation of the Christian community," the report said.

"It seems this pace of occupation of land by [the] Christian community may increase. Removal of katchi abadis is very urgent to provide [a] better environment to the citizen[s] of Islamabad and to protect the beauty of Islam," the report said, according to Al Jazeera.

Father Yousif Amanat, of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Islamabad, called the authority's response degrading, unconstitutional and unwarranted.

"The (authority's) response to the Christian slums clearly reflects the motives behind the so-called anti-encroachment drive. This is simply persecution of religious minorities on the basis of their faith," Father Amanat said.

"All church leaders should stand together to condemn the (authority's) attitude toward minorities and their plans to remove slums without providing any alternative," he said.

Julius Salik, a Christian former member of parliament and head of the World Minority Alliance, called for a criminal case against authority officials over the statement.

"If the government fails to act against the authority, we will lodge a case about the humiliation meted out to minorities," he said.

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Asim Sajjad, president of the Awami Workers Party said he was shocked by the strong language of the authority's report.

"Religious minorities should not be targeted on the basis of their religion," he said.

The civic agency plans to demolish 41 slums in different sectors of Islamabad, with the matter currently pending before the Supreme Court. 

The authority has told the court that the slums will be demolished in four phases but no time frame was given to execute the plan.

In July, the government demolished a slum of about 100 homes, saying Afghan militants resided there, Al Jazeera reported. Activists said the residents were laborers and fruit and vegetable sellers.

Christians, who comprise about 2 percent of Pakistan's Muslim majority population, are regularly targeted because of their religion.

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