You can’t walk 20 feet without having to criss cross your way through these tables laid out on the pavements in any major shopping centre in islamabad. Public grounds have been turned into private gardens with massive concrete structures meant to beautify and lay permanent claim to a land which is essentially public property. Even the beautiful winding pathways through forests and streams that make Islamabad such a pleasant place to live in, have been blocked by these ambitious white collared land grabbers, with guards sitting at the entrance to these “private properties”. It is heart wrenching to watch this path leading from the dead end street where I live, which wound through a stream to a football ground at the back of my house and which was a witness to many childhood adventures, blocked by a private parking lot and a scenic concretised garden, all on Public land. Similarly, another track that led to a hockey ground and served as a shortcut for many pedestrians wanting to cross onto the main road from the residential area is blocked by this iron rail stretched in front of it.

Green belts are being turned into parking lots without any formal authroization by the CDA; turning-a-blind-eye being the “informal” authorization. The notorious Banigala estates is blatant encroachment on farm land besides the Chak Shezad farms, a notice of which was taken just a few weeks back. For that matter, the ISI building right in the middle of a residential area and because of which a road right in front of the building is often either out of service or blocked with these iron rails, is itself a big question mark on the CDA’s tall claims of making Islamabad a model city.

And all this becomes more important for Islamabad in particular because it was essentially a question of “encroachments” that eventually led to this blood bath in the heart of the capital. The Lal masjid fiasco that “reddened” this peaceful, laid back city in the figurative sense, started in response the razing of mosques allegedly constructed on illegal land. The illegal mosques were somehow flouting the law more seriously than all the cases mentioned above, only because big hands and the elite of Islamabad is involved in the latter.

This is not to justify the construction of mosques on encroached property and in my view, the Ghazi brothers would have done a great service to the citizens of Islamabad if instead of resorting to violent tactics, they had taken a case to the courts and exposed the double standards of the CDA. That would have brought genuine relief to the people of Islamabad who are forced to watch the mess that their city is being turned into at the hands of a few select people.

But probably all bigwigs act the same way; Kamran Lashari flies high in his dream city, the Ghazi brothers were content with their drama. We, the people are left to complain.

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