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MURREE: While legally, there is a ban on all types of construction in Murree, influential people with political affiliations continue to construct multi-storey commercial buildings despite the ban.

A five-storey building is being constructed on the Mall by Sardar Fida Khan, a first cousin of Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi, Governor KPK.

Since the last eight years, construction in Murree has been banned by the Punjab government and residents cannot even build a bathroom while influential people continue constructing commercial buildings in sheer violation of by-laws and ban on construction. Both Assistant Commissioner Murree and Tehsil Municipal Officer (TMO) Inamur Rehman confirmed that the ban on construction is still in place.

A PML-N leader and former MNA also constructed a commercial guesthouse at Kashmir Point during the ban but no action was taken against the construction, which was contrarily facilitated by some TMA officials.

Another building owned by Ameer Muqam, adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is being constructed illegally at Kashmir Point near the sensitive PAF installation and just next to the Sharif residence.

TMO Inamur Rehman told Dawn that Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) has registered an FIR against the contractor for Ameer Muqam’s building and demolished parts of the building three times but the contractor continues construction.

Influential people continue construction despite ban

Many other PML-N leaders constructed their buildings during the ban, making it only applicable to residents without influence. Meanwhile, it is alleged that TMA officials used the construction ban to receive bribes to allow construction and amassed millions.

Repeated appeals have been made to the Punjab chief minister to lift the ban so that locals can construct houses on their ancestral lands.

The Punjab government had originally made by-laws for Murree, under which only ground-plus two stories could be constructed. But for the last eight years all kind of construction has been banned, even if they follow the by-laws.

Professor Khalid Niazi, a retired principal of Government College, told Dawn that he purchased a plot in the TMA’s scheme Murree Improvement Trust to build a house for his family. However, 10 years later he has not been allowed to construct a house.

He said that he worries that his land may be taken over by private land mafias, which is a common practice in Murree.

Hafiz Saeed Ahmad, president of Rural Areas Development Organisation (RADO), a local NGO, said the PML-N leadership came to power by raising slogans against corruption but unfortunately illegal construction is going on unabated. He said the people of Murree will start an agitation campaign, if such injustices continue.

Abdul Hameed Abbasi, former president Murree Traders Association, said everyone must be equal before the law. Corruption and bribery, he said, have made the law meaningless.

Assistant Commissioner Murree Tahir Farooq told Dawn construction was not allowed; only retaining walls are constructed to protect the plot from erosion. He said that Mr Fida Khan, the cousin of governor KPK, has applied to the Punjab chief minister for permission to construct the building and his application is under review.

When asked how he could be allowed to construct a building when there is ban in place, Mr Farooq said the chief minister can approve or reject any application.

Meanwhile, TMO Inamur Rehman told Dawn that despite the ban on construction Fida Khan constructed walls and pillars on the site on the Mall and later applied for special approval and the case is pending with the chief minister. Construction has apparently been halted, while approval is awaited.

Adviser to Prime Minister Ameer Muqam said he owned a 10-marla house at Kashmir Point and the house is being renovated.

“When multi-storey buildings are being constructed, why am I being criticised for renovating my private residence,” he asked.

Sardar Fida Khan Abbasi told Dawn that he was served many notices by TMA to demolish his building on the Mall, which was constructed during the British era and was later declared dangerous by the TMA.

In the TMA notice, he was warned that if he does not demolish the building which has been declared dangerous, the TMA would demolish it, he said.

Mr Abbasi said that he has now sought approval for reconstructing the building. “To not be allowed to construct a building on one’s own land is sheer violation of basic human rights. By-laws must be followed but there is no justification for the construction ban,” he said. Published in Dawn ,July 15th, 2015

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