Margalla Towers continue to haunt residents

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ISLAMABAD, Oct 6: Once a shining landmark of Islamabad, the Margalla Towers today stand as a ghost place, equally haunted by the memories of the destructive earthquake of 2005 and society’s outcasts of 2011.

That was the only building in the city to tumble down in the quake that flattened or damaged 600,000 houses and killed over 73,000 people in northern parts of Pakistan.

When the citizens of Islamabad relive the painful memories of the death of 74 residents of Margalla Towers on the sixth anniversary of that devastation on Saturday, they would also be mourning the present dwellers of the desolate shell of the Towers.Though tottering, the barely surviving structure becomes a haunt for outlaws, addicts and anti-social characters at night.

“We often find, and arrest, criminals and addicts in the basement of the ruined structure of the ten-storeyed building,” admitted a senior police officer.

However, he claimed the problem has been controlled to some extent after regular police patrols and checks.

A poor chowkidar does occupy what used to be the guardroom of the Margalla Towers but finds himself helpless against the bullies who descend at the place.

“Vagabonds sneak into the basement from the open backside of the building at night for their nefarious activities. My husband can’t confront or challenge them,” said his wife, Basri Begum.

Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed, spokesman of Margalla Towers Residents Action Committee (MTRAC), also worries about the presence of criminals in the building.

“Although myself and other residents of the ill-fated Margalla Towers have taken compensation for their damaged apartments from the Capital Development Authority, we still feel for our previous homes and are concerned about illegal activities there,” he said.

That the CDA has not been able to demolish the structure of ten-storeyed building exposes the civic body as inefficient and irresponsible.

“A danger in itself, the building is now turning into a breeding ground for terror, pain and distress to the Islamabad citizens,” said Mr Ahmed.

Former residents of Margalla Towers want the heavily damaged building demolished and reopening of their case against its owner and builder, Ramzan Khokhar, for compensation.

Khokhar was the principal accused in the poor and faulty construction but became the main beneficiary when former Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar ruled that government compensate him too for the four apartments that he owned in the
Towers.

Thus Khokhar got Rs43.5 million in compensation of his four apartments while owners of the other 74 apartments together got Rs1.7 billion under the Supreme Court ruling.

An inquiry was conducted into the collapse of Margalla Towers by Maj Gen Farooq Ahmed as chairman Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission but its report was never made public.

Gen Farooq once said “influential people” blocked the release of the report.

An official of the CDA agreed that the building should be demolished and its plot should be auctioned because the cash strapped authority had already paid Rs1.7 billion as compensation to the affected families.

“Some parties have contacted CDA bosses that they are ready to pay up to Rs100 million for the debris of the building but the authority heads want to auction the plots along with the damaged structure,” the official said.

Source:  http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/07/margalla-towers-continue-to-haunt-residents.html

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