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ISLAMABAD: For the first time since it sealed the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has shown willingness to unseal the controversial project subject to fulfillment of tough conditions by the builder.

Sources told Dawn that a meeting was held at the Cabinet Division last week which was attended by Cabinet Division officers, Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Secretary Azher Ali Chaudhry, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials and CDA board members.

The sources said the CDA placed its proposal to regularise the project before the meeting and said the plot on which the buildings were constructed could be restored and the project approved by the CDA if the developer revoked the sale agreements undertaken with third parties and altered the internal layout plan to bring the building into conforming use, which would be service apartments.

When contacted, CDA Member Estate Khushal Khan said some proposals to regularise the building did come under discussion at the meeting.

“At this stage, I cannot share the proposals with you but yes we have presented our proposals to the participants of the meeting,” he said.

Plot could be restored, project approved if developer revokes sale of apartments, alters internal layout plan, sources say

“We just shared our proposals with the participants of the meeting whether or not the project could be regularised,” Member Planning Asad Mehboob Kayani confirmed.

But sources said the meeting was told that the developer had violated the CDA terms and conditions, sold serviced apartments that were not meant for sale and made unauthorised changes to the internal layout plan by establishing 240 residential apartments instead of 120 serviced apartments. The developer did not construct the hotel tower which was the main part of the project.

According to sources, CDA officers said the plot could be restored under the 2014 restoration policy if it was decided that the developer should bring the building under conforming use.

The CDA also told the meeting that the site was reserved for a hotel according to the city’s master plan but the plan could be amended by the federal government to include saleable residential apartments in the project along with the hotel and serviced apartments.

The sources said the developer would have to submit revised building plans to the CDA and then file a formal application for the restoration of the plot.

If an amendment to the master plan is required, the CDA, within 15 days of the receipt of directions from the government, will initiate a summary for the federal cabinet.

The CDA officers agreed at the meeting to regularise the building if these conditions were met but they also made clear that if the government did want to regularise the project it would have to give proper approval, finalise cases and obtain clearance from the FIA and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). In March last year, Justice Athar Minallah of Islamabad High Court (IHC) declared the construction of the luxury apartments on the land meant for Grand Hyatt Hotel illegal and upheld the CDA’s cancellation of the lease of the 13.5 acre plot.

The judge held that the “construction of residential apartments on the plot and the purported sale thereof was illegal, void and in flagrant abuse and violation of CDA Ordinance 1960 read with the zoning regulations, building regulations and the building control regulations.”

In a subsequent hearing of a petition filed by the affected buyers, the court held the former CDA chairman and board members responsible for negligence and directed the interior ministry to take action against them.

In May 2017, the FIA registered an FIR against former CDA chairman Kamran Lashari and seven other senior officials along with Abdul Hafeez Pasha, the CEO of BNP, the builder.

Justice Minallah then constituted a committee, consisting of the attorney general, secretaries Cabinet Division, CADD and law and justice ministry and the CDA chairman, to consider the matter. The prime minister constituted another committee on Nov 16, 2017, with Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf as its chairman to consider regularising the project as one of the options for compensation.

During the hearing of an appeal filed against the order of Justice Minallah on Thursday, a two-member bench of the IHC was also informed that the CDA may regularise Grand Hyatt and multi-storey residential apartments.

The counsel for the appellants said there were some developments regarding the regularisation of the plot’s lease.The hearing was later adjourned to the next week.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2018