PESHAWAR: The district administration on Friday sealed 40 private educational institutions, mostly schools, in the upscale University Town locality of Peshawar over the nonconforming use of residential buildings.
Around 140 nonconforming commercial entities have so far been sealed in the weeklong operation in the area in compliance with the orders of the Peshawar High Court.
Though a case of the contempt petition is pending with the PHC for not implementing its earlier orders to stop commercial activities in the University Town, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly recently amended the relevant law and allowed commercial activities there for five years.
However, the legislation needs the notification of the relevant rules for enforcement.
Few years ago, the high court had declared the carrying out of commercial activities in residential areas of Hayatabad Township and University Town illegal. The judgment was upheld by the Supreme Court.
In 2015, the high court again issued directives in that respect over the petitions filed by some local residents.
Nazim says action taken in line with high court orders
Few months ago, they again moved the court and filed contempt of court petition saying the said judgment had not been implemented.
The commercial buildings sealed by the district administration, include educational institutions, health care centres, guesthouses, beauty parlours, hotels, banks, shops etc.
The closed offices also include around 30 government offices.
“The sealed educational institutions will remain closed until further orders in light of the court’s directions,” an official in the district administration told Dawn.
He said the court’s orders to seal commercial buildings in University Town were still valid even after legislation by the provincial assembly in that respect.
“We have yet to receive any instruction from high-ups on the changes to the law about commercial activity in residential areas,” he said.
The official said hearing into the contempt of court petition over nonconforming use of residential buildings would take place on April 25 and until then, no commercial activity would be allowed in University Town.
“Things on the commercial activities there will be cleared on April 25,” he said.
When asked why action was not taken against the offices of the United Nation organisations operating in the upscale locality, the official said the UN bodies claimed immunity against crackdown under the international agreements and therefore, the district administration didn’t seal their premises.
The closure of educational institutions has confused parents, who considered security reasons to be behind the development.
“I don’t know the reason for the closure of schools,” a parent told Dawn.
He said he received a message on his cellphone that the school of his child would remain closed from April 21 to April 25.
He said the school administration informed parents by cellphones regarding the additional homework to be done by their children during the closure of schools.
“The monthly fee of my daughter is Rs14, 000,” said another parent, whose child is enrolled in a University Town elite school.
He said despite paying huge fees to private schools, the students’ precious time was wasted through unscheduled campus closures.
“Ironically we didn’t know how long the schools would remain closed,” he said.
When contacted, town III nazim Arbab Mohammad Ali, whose government controls University Town, said the administration had taken action against nonconforming schools and colleges in line with the high court orders.
When his attention was drawn towards the recent amendments to the Local Government Act 2013 on the matter, he said the local government department had yet to give his government fresh guidelines about the functioning of commercial entities in the residential area.
“Now, the rules of business will be changed in light of the amendments to the law to allow business activities in University Town,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2017