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ISLAMABAD: After political parties and business entities, now it is the turn of media houses and government offices to face action for non-conforming use of residential houses in the capital city.

On Monday, the Supreme Court asked the federal government to identify media houses and government offices functioning in residential areas and submit a report to the court.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, had taken up a case relating to the use of residential houses for commercial purposes as well as encroachments and road blockades created by government offices, private residences as well as some embassies.

During the proceedings, Justice Saeed expressed surprise over how government rules and by-laws were manipulated on the pretext of public good.

In a report, Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman Maroof Afzal informed the court that the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) had constituted a special committee on March 15 to propose a work plan for the relocation of private educational institutions in residential houses.

Judge surprised at ‘manipulation’ of by-laws on the pretext of public good

It added that a separate report would be submitted to the court after the plan was finalised.

The court asked the CDA to also submit a report on the status of primary school buildings in Islamabad. It ordered Additional Attorney General (AAG) Chaudhry Amir Rehman to furnish a compressive report covering the list of media houses and government offices in Islamabad.

Appearing on behalf of the civil society, Dr Aslam Khaki Advocate pleaded the court to order the civic agency to relax its by-laws to allow the operation of primary schools in residential areas. The court, however, observed that it cannot force anyone to go for any legislation.

The counsel also requested the court to order the CDA to remove concrete blocks from the adjacent area of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) offices which he said were blocking the road.

The bench said the court can issue an order for the removal of the barricade if Mr Khaki gave an assurance about the security of the FIA building. However, Mr Khaki said he was not in a position to provide such an assurance.

In its report, the CDA also informed the court that both the inspectors general of the Islamabad and motorway police had shifted their offices from the residential properties.

On March 14, the AAG had informed the court that the office of the IGP Islamabad functioning in a house at Sector F-7/1 would be shifted to the Police Lines in Sector H-11. But the shifting of the wireless and other communication system as well as the supporting staff would need another month.

Similarly, the office of the inspector general of the motorway police would be shifted from the residential house in Sector F-8/3 to the Bureau of Emigration, G-8/1.

The report also explained that setting up of beauty parlours in residential houses was not permissible under the CDA regulations and, therefore, no exemption can be allowed.

Besides, no exemption can be granted to offices of donor agencies illegally using residential houses as offices. Political parties were also not allowed to run their offices in the residential areas.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2016