Amenity plots are a boon
ISLAMABAD, Feb 5: Many national and semi-private institutions are carrying on commercial activities on high-value land of Islamabad that they had acquired as ‘amenity plots’ for a pittance.
Sources in the Capital Development Authority admit that housing societies and commercial venture have sprouted on vast tracts of land allotted over the past 50 years, at rates as low as Rs200 per square yard, for social services for public benefit.
“They were meant to improve the educational, health and social structure of the city. Their commercial use is prohibited by the CDA Land Disposal Regulations 2005,” said an official of CDA’s Estate Wing.
But the city mandarins have kept their eyes closed to the misuse and violations that gained momentum after the largess of amenity plots distributed by the missionary dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.
“We admit that there have been massive violations in the amenity plots. But the CDA is working on the issue,” said CDA spokesman Ramazan Sajid when Dawn sought comments on the alleged violators like the International Islamic University, the Allama Iqbal Open University and the Mari Petroleum Company Ltd.
“We will go by the rules and people will see action against all violators,” the official promised.
It would be a big surprise if the CDA really cancels the plots of the powerful that insiders say figure on a long list of violators.
Among them, they counted the Special Education School in I-9/4, Pakistan Television, the Wapda Building in G-7 in use of the Federal Urdu University of Arts & Sciences, the Rural Development Foundation, the private Institute of Policy Studies that sold the plot it was allotted in F-7, and the FAST University.
While the Allama Iqbal Open University is said to have developed a housing colony in its campus grounds, the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development has done same on the land that was allotted for the special education school, disclosed a CDA Estate Wing official.
He said the FAST University also got public land “at throw away price” for its campus in H-11.
PTV, the state-run television, has set up a commercial PTV Foundation School on a plot which was allotted to it to build an academy for television artistes and technicians.
Perhaps the Institute of Policy Studies, a private research think tank, profited most as it sold the building it had raised on the ‘amenity plot’ in the high-value Jinnah Super Market to another party against the rules.
And the Rural Development Foundation is said to be following the Mari Petroleum Company Ltd, owned by the Fauji Foundation, the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd and the Government of Pakistan, in raising an office complex on its amenity plot.
According to the CDA estate official the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) has converted the sites of a number of its grid stations into residential colonies.
His colleague in the administration said the CDA knew about the violation “but cannot do much against the violators because of the protection of the successive governments they enjoyed.”
A cabinet division official added that all these plots were given to a number of private and public institutions by the executive – the Prime Minister or President of Pakistan – using its ‘Special Dispensational Power’.
“A large number of these institutions are now running commercial ventures, or have changed the use of the allotted land, on their own, without bothering about CDA regulations,” observed another official, citing the International Islamic University as an example which he said was developing commercial ventures like a market and residential colony not approved by the terms of the allotment of its land.
“If a land is allotted for education purposes you cannot start any other venture there unless the civic management approves it. In the case of violation, the plot can be cancelled,” he noted.
In the opinion of Islamabad High Court’s senior lawyer Niazullah Niazi conversion of amenity plot usage violates Land Disposal Regulations 2005.
“But these violations occur all the time and the CDA officials who overlook them share the responsibility,” he said.