ISLAMABAD: While a government-appointed commission reviews Islamabad’s master plan for the first time in the capital’s history, the cabinet made yet another amendment to the blueprints of sectors G-13 and G-14 last week to pave the way for the Naya Pakistan Housing Project.

According to the original plan, the Mauve Area in these sectors is reserved for institutions and offices. The cabinet approved changes to the master plan at the request of the Ministry of Housing and Works.

Sources said that the cabinet, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, approved changing the land use of both sectors to pave the way for the government’s housing project.

The cabinet’s decision stated: “The cabinet considered the summary dated 8th April, 2019 submitted by Ministry of Housing and Works Division and in accordance with the proposal at para 6, approved change in land use of Mauve Area of sector G-13 and G-14, subject to clearance by CDA board, from construction of office buildings of attached departments, autonomous bodies, to construct of multipurpose high-rise residential, office and commercial building by FGEHF.”

Construction of residential, commercial high-rises in G-13, G-14 permitted subject to approval from CDA board

Housing and Works Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema had told a Senate committee recently that the prime minister would hold the project’s ground-breaking on April 17, without mentioning where the project would be located.

After the cabinet meeting on April 9, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said the government had “decided to form a new housing department called the Naya Pakistan Housing Authority” and would build 130,000 housing units “for deserving people” in the capital and in Balochistan.

A Housing and Works official confirmed that the cabinet has approved a change in land use for G-13 and G-14. He said the cabinet was the competent forum to do this. After the change was approved, a summary was sent to the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to be presented to its board.

The official said the housing project will likely begin in G-13.

Although the CDA is the custodian of the capital’s master plan, Housing and Works sent the summary to change the sectors’ land use to the cabinet for its approval. Sources in the CDA said this matter should have been discussed with the commission the government formed to review the master plan.

“But in this case, the matter was not even taken up before the CDA board,” an official from the authority said. However, he said, the cabinet approved the summary subject to approval from the board.

“Now, after the cabinet’s decision, I don’t think our board can give an independent view. Rather it will endorse what cabinet has already decided,” the official said, adding that the board will likely take up the issue today (Tuesday).

He said the planning wing is working on a summary to present to the board.

CDA spokesperson Syed Safdar Ali also confirmed that the cabinet approved the change in land use for G-13 and G-14.

“Cabinet is the competent forum to make the change. Following the cabinet decision, we are doing our work,” he said, refusing to share any more information.

Some planning wing officials said that while the prime minister’s initiative could be praised for providing shelter to the underprivileged, the project should be located somewhere other than the Mauve Area.

An official who asked not to be named said that according to planning parameters, residential use in any sector should not exceed 55pc. Residential use in G-13 and G-14 is already greater than the recommended parameters.

The commission reviewing the master plan also met on Monday at CDA headquarters for a meeting chaired by CDA Chairman Amer Ali Ahmed. They discussed the commission’s progress, and sources said the commission was told that the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission has provided images to determine authorised and unauthorised housing units in the capital.

A commission member who asked not to be named said they are trying to have a preliminary report ready by next month. “After completing formalities, consultant firms will also be hired to carry out technical works,” the commissioner member said.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2019