ISLAMABAD: A controversy regarding the termination of 46 golfers’ membership by Bahria Town for protesting the conversion of amenity land meant for a golf club in a commercial venture has reached the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Golfers, whose memberships were terminated, include 14 former army officers – eight of whom are retired brigadiers – who were members of the Garden City Golf and Country Club where Bahria Town had planned two nine-hole golf courses each spread over 571.1 kanals. Golf Course I, on 350.37 kanals, has already been developed.
The golfers were part of a 50-member joint action committee (JAC) constituted on Feb 5 against the conversion of around 250 kanals reserved for Golf Course II and 38.14 kanals meant for a club house.
Society constructing illegally on amenity land, petitioner claims
When the committee conveyed its concerns to Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz, the housing society cancelled the membership of 46 golfers.
The four people whose memberships remained intact were retired Lt Gen M. Asif, retired Maj Gen Fahim Akhtar Khan, retired Maj Gen Tariq and retired Maj Gen Jamshed Riaz.
Prior to filing a petition in the IHC, the committee through Barrister Mumtaz Ali had served a legal notice on the Bahria Town chief executive on Feb 20.
In the legal notice, the committee demanded that the housing society management halt illegal construction at the golf course.
The petition filed by JAC president Abrar Hussain and retired Lt Col Sohail Ahmed cited the Capital Development Authority (CDA), the Bahria Town CEO and the Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF) as respondents.
It says that the land in question falls within the CDA jurisdiction since it is situated in Zone V of Islamabad.
It points out that the CDA approved a layout plan for Bahria Garden City that included two golf courses of nine holes each and a club house which had also been uploaded to the CDA official website.
After the layout plan was approved, Bahria Town began advertising a “championship 18-hole USGA standard golf course” with the aforementioned club house.
The petition said the matter was brought to the CDA’s notice after Bahria Town began illegal construction on the amenity land but to no avail.
It states: “It is clear from the above that the respondents do not wish to implement the approved layout plan and on the contrary bent upon converting the land reserved for amenities for residential and commercial plots.”
It said the CDA, in another case related to private housing societies last year, submitted a report to the IHC highlighting several layout plan violations in various Bahria Town phases and the court had issued a stay order against construction on amenity land.
The report, which was submitted to IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, claimed that 69 kanals for a green area and a graveyard in Bahria Town Phase III had been allocated to a commercial plaza.
In Bahria Town Phase VII, the report said, there was no graveyard even though one had been provided for in the approved layout plan.
Furthermore, it said, a green area, a park site and a playground were partially converted into residential plots.
In Bahria Garden City, the report said, two graveyard sites of 35 and 50 kanals had been utilised for plots.
The petition asked the court to direct the CDA and other respondents to implement the approved layout plan and retrain Bahria Town from converting amenity land into residential and commercial plots.
However, Bahria Town management has argued that the housing society’s construction on the land was lawful and the golfers’ claim was baseless.
Retired Lt Col Khalil, a senior Bahria Town official, said the management never promised the golfers two courses. “If someone wants to play on an 18-hole golf course, he may go to Golf City on Murree Road, which is about half an hour distance,” he said.
He added that there was a 36-hole golf course in Karachi that aspirants can visit to avail the facility.
Mr Khalil said the housing society was developed to provide affordable living to residents, not to offer golf courses.
He said the Bahria Town management had filed a legal suit against the golfers’ indifference in an Islamabad civil court, where the matter was pending adjudication.
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2018