Land allotment does more harm than good

ISLAMABAD, Aug 25: Since 1999, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has sold out about 1,000 acres to different private and government sector organisations and individuals. Though the allotment brought little money to the cash-strapped authority, the doling out of state land contributed to environmental degradation of the federal capital.

The allotments did not earn the CDA any money because the land has allegedly been sold at the same price at which it was acquired by the CDA about four decades ago.

The details of the CDA’s allotment of land under both the Musharraf regime and the current government show how generously governments distribute land to cronies and favoured institutions.

According to documents available with Dawn, the CDA under the current government has not just auctioned dozens of commercial and industrial plots to private individuals but also
allotted some 465 acres to 45 government and private sector organisations and foreign missions and individuals in the last four-and-a-half years.

Before the PPP got hold of CDA, the Musharraf regime — from 1999 to 2007 — allotted 500 acres to 70 government and private sector organisations and individuals. Military installations were beneficiaries too. From 1999 to 2007, the major beneficiaries included the National University of Science and Technology, which was given 350 acres in Sector H-11; the ISI, which got a total of 77 acres in five different locations; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs got a mere 4.8 acres in Sector H-11; Strategic Planning Division (SPD) bagged five acres in Sector H-9 and Dr A.Q. Khan laboratories got four acres in Sector H-11.

Zong Telecom and China Mobile (CM Pak) were also given a few acres each. The CDA continued to parcel out land under the PPP regime.

It allotted 215 acres to University of Engineering, Science and Technology in Zone-IV; 70 acres to Air University; 35 acres to Law University in Zone IV; 31 acres to the Ministry of Housing and Works in G-10, G-11 and I-16; and seven acres to SPD in H-11.

Overall, however, the PPP has proved to be even more generous than its predecessor.

According to statistics, under the former military ruler the allotment was about 50 acres per annum while the current democratic regime’s average has been over 100 acres per year.
Similarly, out of 18 industrial plots nine were auctioned during last four-and-a-half years; the rest (11 plots) were sold out during the previous government. Out of 84 commercial plots,
45 were allotted to private companies and people since 2008.

At least 10 commercial plots have been sold out, ever since the current CDA chairman assumed charge some seven months back.

The real generosity of the authority comes to light when kiosks were allowed in various green areas of Islamabad. Under the Musharraf regime, CDA had allotted 24 kiosks, but since 2008, the PPP regime has allotted a whopping 63 kiosks.

Out of these, 33 are located in various sectors while 30 are at Lakeview Park of which 12 were allotted by the former CDA chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi and 14 were allotted by former CDA member environment Mazhar Hussain, whereas four kiosks were illegally allotted as they still need approval.

However, the legally allotted kiosks have also earned flak because they are seen to be environmentally harmful.

According to environmentalists, these kiosks have further reduced the green cover of the federal capital as they are located on green spaces.

Shafiq Ahmed, an environmentalist and renewable energy consultant, is of the opinion that the kiosks are manifestation of haphazard planning which has led to pollution as well as sewage and sanitation problems.

He said that kiosk also spoiled the scenic beauty of the federal capital and encouraged encroachment.

CDA’s chief legal adviser, Masroor Shah when contacted said that the CDA under its rules and regulations was bound to meet the demands of various government departments and ministries. This is why, he said, the land had been allotted to various departments and establishments in Islamabad.

The allotment to private individuals was also done in accordance with the CDA ordinance, he added. He, however, admitted that in some cases, rules have been relaxed with the permission of the competent authority.

Regarding the allotment of kiosks, Barrister Shah said that the kiosk owners were primarily poor people who are providing a service to the residents of Islamabad by selling eatables and other essential items.

However, not every one agrees with this. Chaudhry Mohammad Ashraf Gujjar, former president Islamabad High Court (IHC) Bar Association said in some cases the authority had sold the land at very low rates.

CDA should have disposed of its land at market prices even to the government institutions, he added.