GoldSmith Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)

Uncertainty and Insecurity of Tenure: Developing Infrastructures of Care and Resistance in Islamabad, Pakistan.

In 2018 Goldsmiths QR GCRF 2018 – 2020 was approved by Research England by confirmed funding for 2018 – 2019 and we are expecting Global Challenges Research initiatives to continue for next three years. The aim of the GCRF supported research project was to support collaborative mono – interdisciplinary capacity building research projects.

AUR has successfully completed the research project in various Katchi Abadis (informal settlements) in Islamabad. 

Aims of the Project

(1) Generate and project community-led knowledge relating to irregular low income settlements—particularly those currently under threat of eviction.

(2) Strengthen existing networks of organizers from various irregular settlements within Islamabad and to equip them to better represent their communities’ struggles in engagements with the state and public media.

(3) Relatedly, to consolidate and help disseminate APAKA’s knowledge on resisting threats of evictions by providing them with resources that would allow them to collect, collate, an share information between community members and policymakers.



Press Release for the Land, Ecology, Displlcement and Development Conference 

Hundreds of progressive political workers, intellectuals, youth and affectees of ‘development’ projects from all over the country gathered for two successive days at the Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai Community Centre in Islamabad for the first ‘People’s Conference on Land, Ecology, Development and Displacement’. The conference brought to light the increasing incidence of violent dispossession taking place under the guise of ‘development’ in both peripheral regions and major Pakistani cities, and the increasing control of state-backed mafias on land and other natural resources at the cost of indigenous communities and working masses.

Eight sessions took place over the two-day conference, ranging from discussions over global finance and real estate, to the state of exhausted resource peripheries and the imperative of housing for working-class residents of metropolitan areas in the face of ever proliferating gated housing schemes. Amongst the prominent speakers present on the occasion were ex Director General of the Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority, Tasneem Siddiqui; President of the Gwadar Fishermen Alliance, Khudadad Waju; Dr. Majed Akhter of King’s College London; and Director of the Institute of Business Administration, Dr. Akbar Zaidi.

AWP leaders Ammar Rashid, Alia Amirali, Khurram Ali, Hafeez Baloch, and Aasim Sajjad shared their experiences of organising local communities from Karachi to Islamabad against mass evictions. They asserted that whether dispossession is enforced by the state, and where it entities like Bahria Town are in the lead, repression against those who engage in peaceful resistance to defend their homes and lands is commonplace and intensifying. AWP organisers resisting eviction of katchi abadis in Karachi’s Gujjar Nala and Orangi Nala areas have been jailed repeatedly, while Seengar Noonari, who has been on the frontline of resistance to the forced capture of villages for the expansion of Bahria Town was forcibly disappeared two weeks ago.

Legal experts like environmental lawyer Ahmed Rafay Alam and SIRA and Karachi Bachao Tehreek’s legal advisor Abira Ashfaq as well as urban planners like Ayesha Shahid noted the use of colonial era laws like the Land Acquisition Act (1894) to dispossess villagers and katchi abadi residents alike. They questioned the role of the superior judiciary in fulfilling its constitutional mandate of protecting the rights of the most vulnerable. They also criticised massive development initiatives like the Ravi Riverfront City and Rawalpindi Ring Road which are both ecologically destructive and generating mass displacement. Fayyaz Gilani of the Rawalpindi Ring Road Affectees committee and Akmal Riaz of the Dadhocha Dam Affectees committee also shared their experiences of being forced to sell agricultural lands at throwaway rates for mega-projects announced without them being consulted.

Sibt-ul-Hasan and Nazimuddin Salarzai shared how disputes over land are intensifying in the ex FATA districts in the shadow of the war on terror and the multifarious devastation caused by the latter. These disputes are exacerbating sectarian and other conflicts due to the flawed strategic policies of the state. Hashim Khoso and Nausheen Anwar discussed similar resource-based disputes in the context of Sindh, especially in the urban metropolis of Karachi. They warned that control over land in Karachi is continually conflated with ethnic identity, with potentially even more explosive consequences than have been experienced in the past.

In the session on Islamabad, PIDE economist Dr. Zia Bandey shared insights on the exploitation of street vendors, most of them displaced migrant workers, in the informal economy of the city and spoke of the importance of licensing them and providing them basic economic rights. Hydrology expert Dr. Hassan Abbas spoke of the unsustainable, dam-reliant water management practices used by government in the Islamabad region and stressed on the need to sustainably utilized natural aquifers and monsoon rains for the city’s water needs.

The conference resolution noted that the politics of land and other natural resources is more important today than even in the past and called for a series of wide-ranging steps for rural and urban land reform, including redistribution, review of the land acquisition act, taxation of large and under-utilized landholdings, implementation of incremental public housing and regularization of katchi abadis, among other aspects.

Today’s increasingly financialised model of ‘development’ is generating more surplus populations than ever before as profiteering through speculative real estate is considered far more important than the current or future welfare of millions of working people who previously used land and other natural resources to secure basic livelihoods. The need for a land reform agenda in the 21st century prefacing the wellbeing of working people and the natural environment is, therefore, extremely urgent.