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ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) carried out an anti-encroachment operation against illegal shops at Parliament Lodges on Thursday, and also gave former lawmakers another chance to vacate their official residences.

Parliament Lodges Director Faisal Gaddi confirmed that the operation was restricted to illegal shops on Wednesday, but added that “from tomorrow we will likely start operations to get former lawmakers to vacate family suites, as we are facing pressure from new parliamentarians for the possession of suites”.

There are 361 family suites in Parliament Lodges that are to be allotted to new MPs, he said. More than a hundred new MPs have already been allotted accommodation in the lodges.

Enforcement directorate seeks police assistance in operation to vacate MPs’ residences today

Former lawmakers have been given 24 hours notice to vacate their residences, but a number of former parliamentarians have not responded yet, he added.

“We had planned to start the operation on Thursday, upon the expiry of notices, but we had to postpone our operation to [Friday],” an enforcement directorate official said. He added that many lawmakers have voluntarily vacated their suites and handed the keys over to CDA officials.

The CDA’s enforcement directorate wrote to the deputy commissioner and police high-ups on Thursday seeking their help for Friday’s operation against former MPs.

The letter, sent from the deputy director enforcement to the deputy commissioner and the senior superintendent of police operations, stated that “ex-occupants in various family suites have already been served with final notice of 24 hours” to voluntarily vacate their residences, but have not adhered to them.

“In the wake of non-compliance, the competent authority has decided to vacate these suites on Friday at 9:00 a.m.”

In the letter, the CDA asked for assistance from the deputy commissioner’s office and the police to counter any resistance in the vacating process.

Sources said more than 80 lawmakers have retained their positions in parliament and are eligible to continue living in the lodges for another five years. The offices of the speaker of the National Assembly and the Senate chairman allot the suites to lawmakers, while the CDA is supposed to maintain them.

A CDA enforcement team vacated eight shops in Parliament Lodges of operators whose leases had expired along with police and administrative officials on Thursday.

Sources in the CDA said the operation against the shops was conducted on directions from the Senate Standing Committee on House and Library and the Senate Secretariat after complaints of substandard food items being sold there.

The operators’ agreements with the CDA had already expired. A CDA official in a working paper recently revealed in a standing committee meeting that following a directive from the house and library committee in 1999, the monthly rent of all shops in Parliament Lodges was fixed at Rs2,000 plus utility charges, while two tuck shops were charged Rs500 plus utility charges in rent.

The nominal rents are still in place, the documents said, even as the prices of all other commodities and services have increased significantly in the last 15 years.

A CDA official said the authority will now call a fresh tender to allot the shops to new people through a competitive process.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2018