Agro-farmhouse of PM’s relative spared
ISLAMABAD, Feb 15: During an operation against non-conforming use of farmhouses at Murree Road on Friday, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) skipped the house of a close relative of the prime minister.
“One farmhouse located in the small street was not touched even though it was supposed to be sealed under the law for violating the building code,” said a senior official of the civic agency who was part of the operation.
According to the lease agreement with the owners, farmhouses in Islamabad were supposed to be utilised for farming and poultry. However, some of the owners have violated the agreement by constructing palatial houses and even marriage halls there.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan took up the matter in 2007 and directed the CDA to launch an operation against the owners for non-conforming use of the agro-farmlands. The latest direction from the apex court came in November 2012.
“The house at Murree Road was not sealed and rules and procedures were ignored,” the CDA senior official told Dawn on the condition of anonymity. He added that the officials taking part in the operation were told by senior officers of the civic agency that the residents of the farmhouse had an affiliation with Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
According to the Land Disposal Regulations 2005’s clause 49-C, in case of building violations and after conducting an inquiry into the building code violations, a farmhouse would be sealed and then demolished.
“From one end, our staff could see PPP flags hoisted on the farmhouse (No 34) in the agro-farm scheme. Police were also guarding the house,” said an official of the estate wing who also refused to share his name while talking to Dawn.
“How could we touch a house whose inmates are very close to the sitting prime minister of the country,” remarked another senior official of the CDA.
In a press release, however, the CDA media wing made tall claims about the ongoing operation against the Murree Road farmhouses. It added: “In the first step, the authority demolished encroachments made by agro-farm No 26-A, Chak Shahzad (poultry and vegetable), agro-farm No 20-B, Chak Shahzad (poultry and vegetable). The owners of plot No 26-A, Chak Shahzad and 16-A, Murree Road, have paid the fine amounting to Rs2.5 million.
But an estate wing official added: “The authority had sealed over eight farmhouses for violation of building codes and also fined some other buildings in Nov 2012. However, instead of taking further action against them, the farmhouses were recently unsealed.”
He said even before launching the operation, the CDA officials were aware of the violations by the farmhouse owner at Murree Road.Another official in the administration department said the farmhouse established on five acres had multiple building violations. He said: “The major violation in the house was that it had been constructed on 20,000 square-feet against the permissible 12,000 square-feet.”
He said the building control department was aware of the violations but “we can’t do anything until we are allowed by the CDA Board to take action against the house since the agro-farm is owned by the prime minister’s relative.”
A resident of the area said the farmhouse was currently being used as the PPP office. “Political workers are continuously visiting the house for holding meetings relating to the upcoming elections.”
Another official in the building control department said: “We demolished parts of former President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s farmhouse mainly because the PPP government gave the go-ahead to former chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi.”
In November 2011, the CDA demolished an excess area of 764 sq-ft on Musharraf’s five-acre farmhouse since construction was allowed only on 12,000 sq-ft.
Islamabad High Court’s senior lawyer Niazullah Niazi told Dawn: “In CDA Ordinance 1960 clause 49-C, it is clearly mentioned that in case of violations and after hearing the case of any owner who had violated the building by-laws the authority’s deputy commissioner can demolish, seal or even take over the building. And if CDA is not following this clause, it is shying away from implementing the law.”
He said the Supreme Court had even directed the CDA to seal and demolish the buildings. However, the CDA is ignoring the directions of the court,” he added.
The lawyer said actions by the authority should be on merit and this case speaks volumes about nepotism in the authority.
When contacted, CDA spokesman Ramzan Sajid said he would call back. However, till the filing of this report at about 9pm, he did not return the call nor replied to text messages sent for comments.
Despite repeated attempts, the prime minister’s spokesman Shafqat Jalil also did not give any reply about the matter.