ISLAMABAD, Nov 27: With its ‘grand operation’ against 1,200 owners of business units illegally set up in the residential areas still awaited, Islamabad’s civic authority on Tuesday initiated a litmus test of its power by sealing four farmhouses at Murree Road for violating the building by-laws.

After the inception of the new management in October, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) board had claimed that it would launch a grand operation against those violating the building by-laws.

Syed Mustafain Kazmi, the CDA member planning, told Dawn that his department had issued notices to all poultry and vegetable farm owners for increasing the covered areas in violation of the building by-laws.

According to the CDA rules, owners of agro-farms in Chak Shehzad and Murree Road are to maintain a certain balance between the covered area meant for residence and the open space reserved for growing vegetables and fruits.

An official of the planning wing explained that agro-farm owners had to grow vegetables and fruits on 80 per cent of the total land. The remaining 20 per cent, he added, can be used for residential purposes. But the owners are running the farmhouses for commercial purposes only, he maintained.

The official said some of the farmhouses, other than those sealed on Tuesday, were also holding marriage ceremonies and musical programmes in the farmhouses which was also a violation of the rules.

It may be noted that in 2011 the Supreme Court of Pakistan had taken notice of these violations and directed the CDA to take action.

This month, the civic agency asked the owners through an advertisement to ensure that their agro-farm plots were used strictly in line with the terms of the allotment.

The owners were told to bring back the covered area within the approved limit by demolishing the access area and ensure the supply of vegetables and poultry to the local markets as per the CDA regulations.

“We had given these agro-farm owners the deadline of Nov 22 to close all the commercial activities,” said the official.

Mr Kazmi, meanwhile, added that under his supervision the four agro-farms - 42, 43, 44 and 44-A - on Murree Road were sealed for non-confirming use of the land.

However, action against some 1,200 businessmen running schools, beauty parlours, bakeries, restaurants, shops and offices in residential sectors is still awaited as they too are flouting the by-laws by non-conforming use of the buildings.

And to make the matter worse for the civic authority, the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) on Friday issued an advertisement in the press, providing a likely breathing space to the private businesses running in the residential areas.

The power company asked all those running their commercial ventures in residential areas to convert their domestic tariff meters into commercial ones.

When contacted, CDA spokesman Ramzan Sajid claimed that Chairman Syed Tahir Shahbaz would take up the issue with Iesco officials.

The member planning added: “We are very serious about such illegal businesses and are taking step-by-step action against the violators." He added that the planning division had started a survey to have an exact data on the private businesses in the residential units.

Another official in the planning department said the authority had conducted a survey in 2009 which identified 839 units being used for commercial purposes. “In addition, in 2011, we identified 280 educational institutions under commercial use,” he added. However, no action has been taken against the owners so far.

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