Punjab to regularise illegal housing societies

Updated June 17, 2019

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A legislative instrument in this regard is also being prepared for the approval of the Punjab Assembly, an informed source told Dawn. — APP/File
A legislative instrument in this regard is also being prepared for the approval of the Punjab Assembly, an informed source told Dawn. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Against the backdrop of a number of court proceedings concerning illegal housing societies and encroachments in Punjab, the provincial government has embarked upon a policy to grant a one-time regularisation to all such schemes.

A legislative instrument in this regard is also being prepared for the approval of the Punjab Assembly, an informed source told Dawn.

On Thursday, Additional Advocate General for Punjab Qasim Nawaz Chowhan had told a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed that due to heavy agenda in view of the Punjab budget, the law could not be finalised for the time being but it would be done soon.

Additional advocate general says provincial assembly will approve law soon

The Supreme Court had taken up the implementation case of two judgments of May 4, 2018, relating to the Bahria Town namely the Takht Pari and Murree projects.

Earlier on March 21, the apex court had approved an offer of Rs460 billion put forth by the Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd but only for the Malir or Karachi Super Highway project.

The proposed law suggested that the real estate industry was the backbone of any economy and its vibrancy has far-reaching effects on the overall health of country’s economy.

In Pakistan, the decaying system of regulatory framework relating to real estate has created countrywide sprawling slum settlements without benefiting either the populace or the national economy, a source said, adding that the indolence of such system was also a breeding ground of crime in the shape of Qabza mafia, fraudulent transactions, corrupt practices by the public functionaries, black/undocumented economy, unethical profiteering and encroachment on public land.

This is further a catalyst for prolonged litigations, mushroom unplanned development, unnecessary burdening of state machinery, distorted investor confidence, disparity of social fabric and wastage of individual/state resources, the source said, adding that illegal housing societies were a virus that infects all parts of the country.

Crumbling mechanisms of governance have emboldened rapacious elements and fuelled an ugly and frequently violent, land-grabbing industry, the source said.

Earlier, the Federal Investigation Agency had furnished a report before the Supreme Court, stating that a total of 5,492 unregistered/illegal/ghost or on paper housing societies exist in the country of which 4,098 were in Punjab and 115 in the Islamabad Capital Territory.

The law being devised suggested to the provincial government to focus on closing loopholes in the land development and property registration, including elimination of legal protection to unrecorded transactions, reorganising property registration system and payment of stamp duties to ensure effective protection of property rights.

For informal areas with problematic land rights and titles, the law suggests that a comprehensive approach to regularising unlawful schemes/informal settlements should be framed. The source recalled that India had successfully introduced regularisation of unlawful housing schemes through payment of fee with varying situations and the same had become a source of substantial revenue for the government.

A land and housing appraisal in districts is needed to act as the baseline inventory of housing situation and development of a housing resource centre in each district is also necessary.

The source said a pilot project in this regard could be introduced in big cities such as Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi.

A World Bank report had also suggested that the government strengthen property rights and land administration process with the private sector.

It can also strengthen the property development framework, support the building industry, facilitate the growth of primary and secondary housing finance markets and introduce useful targeted housing finance programmes.

The source recalled how in the recent past there have been substantial pronouncements by courts as well as criminal investigations by different agencies regarding apathy and collusive slack regulation of governmental functionaries resulting in usurpation of state and private land, encroachments on public amenities, undocumented real estate sector, pilferages in public revenue, clipping of Qabza mafia, unfocused urban planning, environmental preservation and securing of third party rights of genuine investors.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2019