PML-N’s DHA claims and the reality
ISLAMABAD, Feb 27: Contrary to the claims of the leader of the opposition, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, his Islamabad Defence Housing Authority bill passed by the National Assembly on Monday is no different from the one the PPP government had put to the parliament way back in 2009.
During the debate in the lower house, Mr Nisar insisted that his DHA Islamabad bill was line with what his party had been arguing since 2009. “It is now just a housing society, and not the one originally proposed by the government,” he asserted.
But a study of the drafts of their bills reveals that Chaudhry Nisar’s bill, passed unanimously, gives the DHA Islamabad overriding powers to make its own regulations, though laws applicable in the area of its operations, already exist.
Secretary defence will head its governing body, and its executive board will be chaired by Adjutant General of Pakistan Army or a serving lieutenant general nominated by chief of the army staff, explained the initial bill.
The bill carries no mentioning of DHA’s alleged agreement with Bahria Town of Malik Riaz which Chaudhry had criticised throughout the past three years.
The bill clearly suggested that the DHA would have constitutional cover, which no housing scheme in the area enjoyed.
Sources in the PML-N told Dawn the decision to vote for the DHA bill had been taken at the leadership level in Lahore, and Chaudhry Nisar was only asked to vote for it.
One of the main objections of the PML-N to the DHA, Islamabad, was its extension into the provincial land.
This issue was addressed by a similar bill passed by the Punjab Assembly for the DHA, Rawalpindi, during first week of January.
MNA Ayaz Amir of the PML-N has unequivocally opposed the bill as member of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence.
To register his protest as member of the committee, he even submitted a three-page dissenting note with the bill.
When his party decided to vote for the bill Mr Amir, who is also a known columnist, left the house quietly.
Despite repeated attempts, Mr Amir was not available for comments.
However, his three-page dissenting note says everything.
The DHA Myth
Chaudhry Nisar throughout as a leader of the opposition and Chairman Public Accounts Committee (PAC) kept criticising the DHAs of Karachi and Lahore for venturing into pure commercial avenues.
Mr Amir in his letter has also said the same: “We should not be confused or taken in by the name of defence housing authority. It is a housing society of the armed forces and its aim, like any other housing society, is to purchase and acquire land for the benefit of its members. This is a private business undertaking which has noting to do with national security.”
On Monday Mr Nisar argued that on his party’s insistence, a certain percentage of plots in the DHA, Islamabad, would be earmarked for the lower-rank army officials and families of the martyrs.
This is also the case with DHAs in Lahore and Karachi where army officials are given preferences in allotment of plots.
Tracing the history of the DHA, Mr Amir said like other housing societies which were registered under the Cooperative Societies Act, 1925, first it was Gen Ziaul Haq who issued DHA order, 1980, turning the defence housing society Karachi into a statutory body.
Then Gen Musharraf took a similar measure in 1999 for DHA, Lahore, which was unprecedented in the constitutional history of the country.
“This is discriminatory in favor of one housing society which is in direct conflict with Articles 4 (equality before law) and 25 (equality of citizens) of the constitution,” Mr Amir has noted down.
Under the new bill, the governing body of the DHA has been given powers to make regulations as it deems fit for the benefit of the authority.
Addressing this concern in his dissenting note, Ayaz Amir said: “This ordinance confers sweeping powers on the DHA’s Executive Board: (It may) purchase or procure land …undertake any works in pursuance of any scheme or project…incur any expenditure…impose, recover, vary or enhance development charges (in relation to) cost of apartments, housing units, commercial projects and transfer fees and other charges in respect of any property, plot or project within the area of the authority…enter into contracts or any type of arrangement with any local or foreign entity…plan, develop and execute new developments and projects through joint ventures with local and international agencies, institutions and individuals.”
But Mr Khan didn’t touch this in his speech on Monday.
The outspoken PMLN lawmaker, Mr Amir, however, questioned powers of the DHA to levy taxes, which under the
constitution only government could impose.
DHA and Bahria Town
Another aspect that Mr Khan glossed over was the fact that his earlier criticism of the links between DHA and Bahria Town had not been addressed.
Chaudhry Nisar in the past had said on numerous occasions that Bahria Town under the garb of the DHA wanted to legalise thousands of acres of land which Malik Riaz allegedly had occupied in the suburb of the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad.
Mr Amir has also touched this side of the story as well saying, there was no secret that the DHA Islamabad had entered into several partnership agreements with Bahria Town, whose CEO was one, Malik Riaz.
Mr Amir in his letter has also raised query that how much land out of 178,000 which the DHA claimed to own belonged to Chief Executive of Bahria Town.
Mr Amir, who inside and outside of the house has relentlessly spoken against the bill over the past three years in his concluding remarks said, “Musharraf was his own master and could do as he pleased; indeed this bill is a child of his dictatorship and could have been famed under no other dispensation. It has no place in a democracy and should never have been allowed to come before the National Assembly.”