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ISLAMABAD: The number of illegal guesthouses in the capital has risen to 140, despite a ban on the nonconforming use of residential properties.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) began its drive to vacate residential areas of commercial activity in 2015, but later slowed its campaign against guesthouses.

“It’s true that there are 140 illegal guesthouses operating in residential areas. We are going to restart our operation against the guesthouses from Monday,” Building Control Director Faisal Naeem said.

Several guesthouses were sealed a couple of years ago, he said, but the authority later had to slow its campaign.

A guest houses association had filed a case before the Supreme Court pleading that action not be taken against guesthouses.

Number of illegal guesthouses has risen to 140, says director

The CDA’s legal wing has given the building control section the go ahead to start its operation because there are no stay orders against the CDA, he said.

But a CDA official said delayed and selective action by the authority has emboldened even those guesthouse owners who had closed down their businesses out of fears that a court order may ask them to end the nonconforming use of their residential buildings.

The official said that the building control directorate sealed almost a thousand buildings during massive operations in the city after SC orders in 2015, but they were always lenient towards guesthouse operators.

And when the CDA has launched operations against guesthouses they have been resisted by the Guest Houses Association, which has also held several protests outside CDA offices.

The association has argued that the CDA should not seal their businesses without giving them alternate options and has demanded alternate plots in this regard.

While the authority has sealed dozens of guesthouses over the last four years, some officials have claimed that the CDA’s leniency towards guesthouses has led some to restart their businesses.

“Sometimes you will see our teams sealing a guesthouse in F-6 and the same day you will see a few guesthouses are being sealed in F-10; this is a dubious approach,” an official said.

He added that if the authority is serious and there are no mala fide intentions, an operation should be conducted sector-by-sector.

“Apparently, it seems the selective operations are being conducted to create harassment among those who have been using residential buildings for commercial purposes,” the official said.

However, the building control director said operations would be conducted across the board and without discrimination.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2018