ISLAMABAD, March 30: For the last over six months, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has been waiting for the approval of its amended by-laws relating to the Diplomatic Enclave buildings by the prime minister secretariat.
Documents available with Dawn showed that in its amended by-laws the civic agency has reduced the number of storeys in the diplomatic enclave from seven to five. In 2008, the CDA had enhanced the limit from three to eight storeys.
It may be recalled that in January 2012, the US embassy got approval from the CDA for construction of a seven-storey building in the diplomatic enclave.
The proposed amendment is, however, likely to hit the construction of the embassy building because it will empower the civic agency to cancel the NOC it had earlier issued for its construction.
The CDA board in its 11th meeting in June 2012 examined the matter related to the by-laws for the building of embassies and foreign missions and after approval sent it to the prime minister secretariat in September.
According to the documents, the CDA director general planning told the board meeting that while giving permission to the embassies and foreign missions the authority had overlooked the fact that the rooftops of their buildings might be used for surveillance of the parliament, Presidency, PM secretariat and other important buildings in the vicinity of the Constitution Avenue.
He said the quarters concerned had warned that the high-rise buildings can be utilised for electronically monitoring the important offices of the government and suggested that the NOC for the US embassy may be put on hold and the CDA rules should be appropriately amended in order to regulate the height of non-government structures at the Constitution Avenue.”
It may be pertinent to mention that in May last year a retired army officer had also challenged the proposed expansion of the US embassy in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
His petition alleged that the expanded compound would be sufficient to house hundreds of new employees.
The petitioner also alleged that Americans wanted to build a seven-floor building which could house 7,000 personnel, adding the presence of such a large number of Americans in Pakistan would be a security threat to the country.
A senior official of the CDA building control section on the condition of anonymity told Dawn that after the approval of the by-laws the authority would ask the US embassy to keep the height of its embassy up to five storeys.
He said the authority had made the amendment with ‘retrospective effect’ according to which the previously issued building plans for the Diplomatic Enclave would also be subjected to the amended by-laws.
Shafqat Jalil, the press secretary to the prime minister, when contacted, said: “I am not aware of any summary regarding the said matter.” He said he would check the record whether they had received any summary from the CDA.
When approached for comments, Richard Silver, a spokesman for the US embassy, said the embassy had obtained all the necessary approval from the CDA before starting the expansion work.
“So far, 35 per cent of the construction work on the US embassy has been completed and we are completely complying with the existing by-laws.” he said.
The US embassy after obtaining NOC from the CDA in January 2012 was in touch with the CDA and made frequent contacts with the civic body in connection with the related matters, he added.