Cash-starved CDA seeks lost club to make money

ISLAMABAD, June 26: Cash-strapped Capital Development Authority (CDA) wants the Rs1.28 billion club complex standing mocking at it in the F-9 Park come to its rescue.

Dawn has learnt that CDA bosses have sought advice from their law department whether their Citizens Club misadventure could be put to commercial use without violating the Supreme Court verdict that shut it down in 2010.

Before the fabulous club complex could open its membership to the elites of Islamabad, the apex court upheld a citizen’s petition that public places like parks could not be used for commercial purposes.

That made the CDA rename the club as “community centre” but the magnificent structure has since stood as a haunted place.

Yes, the Supreme Court ruling is there. But it did not stop CDA from profiting from something raised with billions of taxpayers’ money,” a CDA official told Dawn.

Initiated by Kamran Lashari, a former CDA chairman, and designed by renowned architect Nayyar Ali Dada, the club complex boasts a 475-seat auditorium, library, conference halls, swimming pools, restaurants, fitness centres, squash and tennis courts, aerobic area, gymnasium, billiard room, games room, banquet halls and residential rooms for the members.

Private citizens were proposed to be 62.5 per cent of the membership, government officers and parliamentarians 15 per cent, CDA officers 7.5 per cent and diplomats and corporate sector 15 per cent.

“We were to generate a good amount of money from the membership fee of the Citizens Club but the dream could not materialise because of the apex court’s decision,” an official associated with the project said.

“Instead, the structures stand unused and deteriorating with time,” lamented a senior CDA official without sharing his name.

“These structures are meant for the general public but how to put them to that use in the light of the Supreme Court judgment is a question for lawyers to answer,” he said.

The 2010 judgment said: “This [Rs1.28billion] huge amount belongs to no one else except the taxpayers/citizens. Such amount, therefore, could have been spent appropriately for their welfare instead of providing luxurious type of Citizens’ Club only for its members.

“We are not opposing establishment/construction of such like clubs in the Capital, but definitely on a suitable place and by not curtailing rights of the general public.

“CDA can undertake such projects not in the park, but in any other area, ensuring at the same time that the money of taxpayers shall not be used for such purposes.

“Instead of abandoning the project, the CDA, with the approval of the federal government, may utilise the building and other facilities for any public welfare project, like women university, medical/engineering college, science, technology or IT institution, etc.”

This paragraph of the judgment is seen by the CDA as a window of opportunity.

CDA sources say the Citizens Club was located at F-9 Park as land acquiring problems prevented its establishment in sectors H-11/2 and F-12. But the explanation did not appeal the Supreme Court.