Low on priority: CDA chairman’s first visit to G-8 in 14 years

ISLAMABAD

Food seems to be the only thing on the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) mind recently. The authority on Sunday announced a new food court to be built in sector G-8.

On Saturday, Chairman CDA Farkhand Iqbal visited G-8 to interact with the sector’s residents and traders and to observe the status of facilities there. It was the first time in 14 years that a CDA chairman visited the sector, according to the G-8 Markaz traders.

Iqbal announced the food court on the recommendation of Iftikhar Shahzada, the president of the G-8 markaz traders’ association.

“There’s an intercity bus station in the residential area in G-8,” Shahzada said. “I suggested that it should be removed and a food court be constructed there.”

Iqbal had also announced a “state-of-the-art food court” in sector G-7 this past week.

CDA spokesperson Masoodur Rehman said the announcements of the two food courts were purely coincidental and the CDA doesn’t have any plans to establish food courts in each sector of Islamabad.

He said the plans for the G-7 food court were hatched some five to eight years ago. Work was stopped on the project after some initial progress by the previous CDA administration, Rehman said.

In any case, if the CDA goes ahead with its plans, it will end up creating three food courts in three adjacent sectors: G-6, G-7 and G-8.

Not everyone is happy with the food court idea, though.

“The food court is a waste of money,” Chaudhary Zulfiqar, who works in G-8 Markaz, said. “Instead, the CDA should spend on road construction and improving public bathrooms.”

The existing public toilets are so bad that people are forced to use the mosque bathroom, Shoukat Hussain Yousafzai said.

Yousafzai, a car dealer who has a shop in the markaz, said the area traders face a host of problems such as lack of cleanliness and encroachments. He said the CDA janitors don’t show up and the traders have to spend out of their own pockets to get the area cleaned, despite paying a fee to CDA for sweeping the streets.

Iqbal said the CDA will try to solve the cleanliness and encroachments issues with the cooperation of the traders, according to a press release issued by the CDA.

Street lights in the markaz are also a cause of concern.

“It’s completely dark at night, because most of the streetlights don’t work,” said Yousafzai. “The darkness is providing cover for thieves, and there have been a few looting incidents at gunpoint in [G-8] recently.”

Nevertheless, the traders welcomed the chairman’s visit. Yousafzai said he was encouraged by Iqbal’s response to their demands.

Shahzada said he found the chairman “energetic” and “willing to work,” too.

“We hope he will deliver on at least some of the promises he made,” Shahzada said.

The visit also brought some unexpected reprieve for the traders.

“The CDA staff cleaned the streets of G-8 Markaz for three days in preparation for the chairman’s visit. I haven’t seen these streets so clean in 13 years,” Yousafzai said. “I would request the chairman to visit more often, so we at least get our streets cleaned regularly,” he added jokingly.

The G-8 Markaz does not have a bustling commercial market. It is predominantly home to car dealerships and auto mechanics. Most of the footpaths outside the shops of car dealers are occupied by “for sale” cars leaving no space for pedestrians. The residents also face a shortage of parking around the Markaz, because of the cars on display.

The G-8 Markaz traders, including the car dealers, have suggested that the nearly 200 car dealerships in G-8 and G-9 be allotted an area outside the city where they can sell their cars, so the markaz can be commercialised. Shahzada said the CDA chairman asked them to submit a formal proposal in this regard.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2012.