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ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has sought magisterial and police cover for its upcoming Jan 14 operation against 111 agro-farmhouses with excessive construction.

CDA Enforcement Director Faheem Badshah informed the interior secretary of the authority’s plans to start the operation in a letter on Tuesday.

The letter stated: “In order to comply with the orders of Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan CDA intends to undertake a forceful operation for removal, demolition of excess covered area from the Agro Farms Houses where covered area exceeds the permissible limit of 9500 square foot.”

Enforcement director informs interior secretary of plans to begin operation on Jan 14

It added that the operation would “start with effect from January 14 till completion of task”. The CDA also asked for necessary magisterial and police cover “for smooth conduct of operation”.

CDA high-ups were also informed in a letter on Tuesday the outcomes of a survey conducted on orders from the SC to ascertain the built-up area of plots allotted for agro-farms.

The letter, written by Building Control Director Faisal Naeem to CDA members and the chairman, stated: “After the survey, 117 number of farm houses were found where the covered area was exceeding the permissible limit of 9500 sq ft.”

It added that notices and show-cause notices were served to the owners of farmhouses where the covered area extended beyond the permissible limit accordingly.

In a judgement issued in September last year, the SC had allowed 9,500sq ft of legitimate covered area and up to 12,500sq ft with a fine.

“Needless to observe that in future no construction beyond 9500 sq. feet shall be permissible for agro farmhouse in any circumstances and no plan in excess of the aforementioned area shall be sanctioned by CDA,” the SC judgement stated.

The CDA’s survey conducted following the judgement resulted in notices being issued to 117 farmhouse owners for constructing on more than 9,500sq ft, but most of the violators did not respond.

Sources said there are dozens of other agro-farms where owners have built beyond the compoundable limit, 12,500sq ft.

The CDA had planned and allotted more than 500 farms in parts of the capital, including Chak Shahzad, Tarlai, Murree Road and Kahuta Road to meet the city’s requirement for vegetables, fruit and poultry.

Contrary to the purpose of allotment, a number of allottees and owners built expansive residences on these farms. CDA officials said bureaucrats, politicians and retired army officials – including former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, retired judges and others built large houses on agro-farms they bought.

Officials said that in the 80s, just 2,250sq ft of covered area was allowed, but the permissible limit increased over time to 9,500sq ft or 12,500sq ft with a fine – five times the original allowance.

Meanwhile, these farmhouses also produce little for the city’s population. A planning wing summary discussed by CDA board members at a meeting last August stated: “Unfortunately agro farm projects in these schemes have turned into ultra luxurious palatial residences instead of their intended use. Even, many started commercial operations/event hosting sites.”

When contacted, Mr Naeem confirmed that an operation against farmhouses with excessive construction has been planned for Jan 14.

“We are following SC directives,” he said, but refused to share more information.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2019