ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who now controls the Capital Development Authority (CDA), is facing his first test of executing Supreme Court judgments when he has to order the CDA to demolish almost 200 houses of the rich and the famous elite living in Chak Shehzad, the power centre of Islamabad.
The CDA first allowed the unauthorised construction of farmhouses in Chak Shehzad and now has issued them a deadline for razing them to half the number following the Supreme Court’s decision that declared it a violation of the lease agreement.
More than 200 farmhouse owners have been warned to demolish the ‘unauthorized’ constructions by June 27 failing which such buildings would be bulldozed, an ultimatum that has upset the ruling elite that is now hitting the roof.
A campaign launched in January by the CDA was also met with resistance as many farms are owned by people in power. Prominent among them are former President Pervez Musharraf, former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, former Senate Chairman Mohammadmian Soomro, PML-Q Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Senator Wasim Sajjad, former Senator Dr Shahzad Waseem, PPP Chief Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Raja Nadir Pervez, former spy chief General Ihsan-ul-Haq, PM Nawaz Sharif’s advisor on aviation Shujaat Azeem and others.
This time, a judicial officer will accompany the CDA team to provide a legal cover to the operation. The reason for ensuring the presence of a magistrate was that in the last campaign, at least 15 farmlands denied access to the CDA officers to inspect their premises.
They have been directed todemolish the ‘unauthorised’ covered area cutting it down to 4,850 square feet from 12,500 square feet that had earlier been approved through changes in by-laws in an attempt to please the high and mighty of the federal capital living there. Many politicians, top generals, journalists, bureaucrats and lawyers own farmhouses in Chak Shehzad.
During the last hearing set for June 20 by a bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the owners together with their lawyers assembled in the Supreme Court but the case was adjourned till June 26, a day before the deadline expires.
The apex court had directed chairman CDA earlier this year to restore the initial status that does not allow construction beyond 4,850 square feet. The CDA in contrast kept extending favours to the big guns by increasing the construction capacity allowing it up to 12,500 square feet.
After the SC order, the CDA is now attempting to reverse its orders by issuing notices allowing the owners to remove the ‘extra’ construction sparking resentment among the city’s elite settled in the palatial compounds.
Instead of daring to admit its fault and explain under what laws and influence it had increased the limit of the construction area, owners are being encouraged to become party in the case to hold the CDA responsible.
During the last hearing conducted on Friday, 50-60 lawyers appeared before the apex bench claiming immunity on the grounds that they followed the CDA by-laws and hence it should be punished for the mess. However, the case was adjourned for June 26.
According to the lease agreement the farmlands were supposed to be utilized for farming and poultry but some owners have built palatial farmhouses and marriage halls there. “Why do people not understand that the violations may get them in trouble,” the chief justice had asked during an earlier hearing of the case.