ISLAMABAD, Nov 14: A commission of retired judges constituted by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) two months ago to examine multi-billion projects of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) began its work here on Wednesday.
Headed by Justice (retired) Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan of the Supreme Court and retired sessions judges Sakhi Mohammad Kahut and Baqir Ali Rana as its members, the commission has a mountain of work before and three months to finish it.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui constituted the commission on September 10 when advocates Niazullah Niazi and Zafarullah Khan and Senator Babar Awan, a former law minister whose licence to appear before the Supreme Court as a lawyer stands suspended, joined a long line of complainants against the CDA.
While appointing the commission, with the consent of petitioners and the legal adviser of CDA, Justice Siddiqui had observed that because of bad governance in the CDA and its ‘commission’ mafia, 1,479 cases involving CDA were pending in different courts.
Of them 662 cases, including 20 of contempt, are lying with the Islamabad High Court.
Justice Siddiqui pointed out that the cases related to lack of transparency in the CDA projects, disputes over acquisition of land and compensation paid, survey of built-up properties on the acquired land, matters of cooperative societies, irregularities in the sale of commercial and residential plots, allotment of plots reserved for public amenities to influential people, massive and irregular recruitment, and absorption of deputationists in the CDA under political pressure.
That is why the honourable judge gave the commission the power to inspect CDA record, summon a witness and engage experts for help, and directed the CDA chairman to ensure cooperation and proper assistance to the commission.
Specifically, the commission has the task to probe the “dubious dealings of the CDA officials” in the big projects such as the Monal Restaurant, construction of the IJP Road, allotment of plot to private firm BNP for constructing a five star hotel complex near the Convention Centre, allotment of additional land to the Centaurus complex for a grid station, allotment of plot to the private firm Minawa in sector F-10 where it raised a highrise building and sold all the apartments without paying the premium/cost of the plot to CDA.
The commission would also examine the process of awarding the contract of the projects of light-emitting diode (LED), worth Rs7.5 billion, Kuri model village, the double road leading to Bahria Enclave, allotment of prime places at Rawal Dam, Saidpur model village, Gun Club, Diplomatic Enclave and other key locations, award of contract for running diplomatic shuttle service, issuance of NOC and selling of land to private housing societies, award of contract for construction of Kashmir Highway, projects for the extension of sector D-12, E-11 and Margalla Phase-II.
The commission will also look into the allotments of cinema plot in sector G-9, to a private firm of a political figure, plots reserved for schools to favourites, agro farms, Hill View Hotel, Art and Craft Village, Margalla Tower, Dubai Plaza, and the contract award for constructing parking lots at Aabpara.
The commission has to see whether transparency, legal formalities were maintained in these projects and ascertain the loss the national exchequer suffered because of any irregularities.
After finishing the huge exercise, the commission has to make recommendations with regard to enforcing a “rules culture” in the CDA. Sector D-12
Planned more than two decades back in 1988 and inaugurated by three prime ministers, the development of Sector D-12 still remains incomplete.
Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had inaugurated the sector for the third time in January last year. Previously it was inaugurated by former premiers Shaukat Aziz and Benazir Bhutto.
The sector’s cost has escalated 300 per cent, over the last few years. In 1988, Rs789 million were reserved in the PC-I for developing the sector. Today the cost has crossed over Rs3.3 billion.
During several board meetings, the senior management of the authority could not come up with any solutions, measures or suggestions, needed to plug the escalating cost.
After a lapse of two years, the contractor has also slowed down work, while nobody in the CDA board seems bothered over the matter.
In June 2012 CDA auctioned Margalla Towers, which had partially collapsed during the 2005 earthquake, for over Rs1.6 billion.
The plot measuring 11,750 sq yard in F-10 Markez was sold at the rate of Rs141,0 00 per sq yard, in an auction conducted by the CDA. However, one CDA official added that currently the land around the same location is over Rs280,000 per sq yd in F-10 which raises doubts over the authority’s pricing of the plot.
With the auction of the plot, the haunting structure of Margalla Towers located in the centre of the capital would be demolished and in its place a new building would be constructed.
It is pertinent to mention that CDA had also paid Rs1.75 billion compensation to the owners on the directives of the Supreme Court in 2010. Margalla Towers had lost one-and-a-half of its block in the earthquake, in which 74 of its inhabitants were killed.
Centaurus Tower is located in F-8 Sector, in the confluence of Jinnah and Faisal avenues.
The $350 million tower comprises an international standard mega mall, ultra-luxurious apartments and penthouses, modern corporate offices and a high-end deluxe hotel. The tower is planned to have 37 storeys and was sold by CDA in 2002, while the construction work started 2005.
An official said CDA’s ‘under-performing financial wing’ had made several attempts to get the blocked amount cleared but the stance of the tower’s management was clear that the money would be released after provision of utility facilities but the authority is still waiting for its payments.
To the benefit of the tower owner the CDA board had also approved construction of a Grid Station in F-9 Fatima Jinnah Park in March 2011, in violation of environmental rules. — Additional reporting by Imran Ali Teepu