ISLAMABAD: Is the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), a real estate entity of the army, working without any oversight or is it answerable to the federal government?
The Supreme Court (SC) posed this question to the government on Thursday.
The status of the DHA came under discussion during the hearing of a complaint filed against the development of the DHA valley on an area reserved for the lake adjoining the proposed Dadhocha dam.
During the last hearing on July 16, the SC had asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to explain why the inquiry into the unauthorised development of a housing scheme on an area reserved for a dam was pending since July 2012.
Justice Khawaja asked why Gen Aziz, who was the vice president of DHA, Islamabad, could ask the Punjab chief minister to relocate the water reservoir meant for millions
Dadhocha was planned for providing water to the residents of the twin cities, said Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, adding the proposed dam was supposed to replace the Rawal dam, the calculated life of which would be over during the current year.
A two-member SC bench, comprising Justice Khawaja and Justice Dost Mohammad, heard the case.
During the course of hearing, the additional prosecutor general NAB, Akbar Tarar, informed the court that the Punjab government had submitted a report which claimed that the controversy over the Dadhocha dam was being addressed.
The report was presented to the court.
The Punjab government in the report says, “Major General Humayun Aziz, vice-president DHA, Islamabad, called on the Chief Minister (Punjab) on March 3, 2015. In the meeting he (DHA VP) expressed his reservation on the construction of a dam on Ling river near village Dadhocha proposed by the irrigation department as a large portion of DHA is likely to be affected by its pond area. He proposed an alternative dam site around three kilometres upstream of village Dadhocha. After discussion, the chief minister directed the secretary irrigation department Punjab to hold a meeting with the VP DHA for resolving this matter.”
The report stated that in a subsequent meeting of Gen Aziz with the secretary irrigation on April 3, it was decided to carry out a feasibility study for an alternate site.
The additional advocate general Punjab, Razzaq A. Mirza, told the bench that the feasibility study would likely be completed by July 31.
After Mirza’s statement, Justice Khawaja recalled that earlier the Punjab government had taken the stance that the site could not be changed. He added that the chief secretary Punjab had twice submitted a report to the court in which the Punjab government had categorically rejected shifting the dam to any other location.
“Prima facie, the change of mind took place after a uniformed general met the chief minister,” remarked Justice Dost Mohammad.
Justice Khawaja asked why Gen Aziz, who was the vice-president of DHA, Islamabad, could ask the chief minister of Punjab to relocate the water reservoir meant for millions of residents of the garrison city.
“Is the DHA answerable to the government or any other authority?” Justice Khawaja asked the additional attorney general (AAG), Amir Rehman, and additional prosecutor general NAB Tarar.
Tarar informed the court that DHA was a statutory organisation and headed by the adjutant general of the army. Both the law officers, however, could not explain if the federal government enjoyed any powers to keep a check on the DHA.
AAG Rehman said under the DHA Act 2013, the authority provides residential facilities to the bereaved families of martyrs, war injured, disabled and the officials of the armed forces.
At this, the bench asked if the federal government could provide details about the allotment of land to the bereaved families, injured and disabled by the DHA in its various housing schemes.
The bench also asked the counsel of the federal government to inform the court whether the DHA was answerable to any authority or not. The matter was then adjourned till August 10 when the government is to provide the information ordered by the court.
Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2015