Near seminary: Plot becomes controversial

ISLAMABAD, Nov 10: Despite security concerns because of its proximity to Lal Masjid, the federal civic agency is allowing the maintenance of commercial status for what was originally an amenity plot.

Back in 1994, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had auctioned an amenity plot (plot number 26) for use as a wedding venue in sector G-6.

Nearly a decade later, “in December 2006, the CDA board approved the blueprint for construction of the wedding hall. The building plan showed it would have three basements, ground, first and second floors,” said an official of the CDA.

However, the official claims that the 2006 move was in violation of the Land Disposal Regulations (LDR) established in 2005.

“The CDA ignored LDR 2005 rules – one of its clauses bars the conversion of amenity plots and the wedding hall plot was an amenity plot,” he said.

The official said that the conversion concept was considered on the request of the Islamabad Capital Territory administration, even though the Islamabad Police had maintained that the plot was not suitable for construction of a marriage hall.

“The plot’s owner had approached the security establishment of the city and told them that the hall would be in close proximity of a Madrassah Hafsa (Lal Masjid) and Imam Bargah Zanabia. The police were apprehensive that both religious institutions may get agitated by the construction of the marriage hall,” the official quoted a summary of the land directorate.

Interestingly in December 2011, the official added, when the Islamabad Police was asked to comment on the matter it stated that there was no resentment from Lal Masjid and Imam Bargah Zanabia.

The police did air the need to be cautious as it noted in its input to the CDA board: “The situation could be exploited any time due to the use of music and ceremonial bands.”It is pertinent to mention that even though the clashes at Lal Masjid took place in July 2007, the construction of the wedding hall begun in 2008, proceeded without any major delays.

Another Project Management Officer (PMO) of the CDA added: “A large-sized structure stands close to the Lal Masjid and the owner was given approval of conversion, for the establishment of a wedding hall building.”

The official maintained that no security issues had ever arisen in the plot’s use as a wedding hall, and besides, the Avari Hotel is being constructed in close proximity to Lal Masjid.

The PMO official said that the CDA board violated all the rules while converting the plot and took a unilateral decision.

This assertion is seconded by a document of the CDA land directorate dated December 2, 2011, which states: “The decision of the board (for conversion of this plot) shall be exclusive and will not be quoted as precedence in future reference being special in its nature.”

In the same meeting, the board had also decided to seek the views of the ICT police after a lapse of four years of the Lal Mosque incident when the building was almost complete.

The PMO wing official alleged that the conversion of the plot was a shady deal which needed to be probed.

Despite multiple attempts, the spokesman for the CDA was not available to comment on the matter