CDA action against student hostels sparks backlash

Updated October 18, 2019

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Students say CDA has begun to crack down on hostels where thousands of students live due to lack of accommodation. — Khurram Amin/File
Students say CDA has begun to crack down on hostels where thousands of students live due to lack of accommodation. — Khurram Amin/File

ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) sealing of student hostels has caused unrest among university students in the capital.

The authority, which has not implemented its by-laws in markets in G-7, where its headquarters is located, attempted to seal a student hostel in E-11 on Wednesday.

Students living at the hostel protested the CDA’s action, saying the authority has begun to crack down on hostels where thousands of students in the capital have been living because of the lack of accommodation on university campuses.

The students’ protest thwarted the operation at the time, but the CDA gave the hostel owner until Sunday to bring the property out of nonconforming use.

CDA’s rules and regulations do not permit hostels to operate in residential areas, but students said the authority should have a lenient approach towards such businesses in the interest of students.

Sources in the authority said that the CDA also sealed two hostels in G-9 last week.

Many public sector universities, including the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics and Comsats do not have residential accommodation for their students while Quaid-i-Azam University and the International Islamic University Islamabad do not have enough room to house all their students.

Private universities, meanwhile, do not have the necessary accommodation facilities either, and nor do non-federal chartered institutions whose main chapters are in other provinces and are running sub-campuses in Islamabad. These include Preston University, Hamdard University, University of Lahore, Sarhad University and others.

As a result, many students end up living in private hostels.

The Higher Education Commissioner (HEC) is responsible for regulating universities, and it is its duty to look into why universities enroll students without having living facilities.

CDA spokesperson Syed Safdar Ali said: “As per our rules and regulations, hostels cannot be run in residential areas. It is non-conforming use. As far the hostel in E-11 is concerned, we tried to seal it the other day but because of the students’ protest we gave the owner three days time to end the nonconforming use.”

He said the authority would take action against hostels for nonconforming use.

However, CDA officials Dawn spoke to said the authority should first focus on big violations instead of disturbing students. They said markets in G-7, where the CDA offices are located, have been violating its by-laws openly without facing any action against them.

“Look at the class three chopping centre right in front of CDA headquarters,” said a CDA official. “According to the city’s master plan, this market is supposed to provide daily use items to people living in the neighbourhood. But the entire market has been converted into a furniture market, while the industrial and trade centre in G-7 near the Urdu university has become mechanics workshops.”

G-7 Markaz has been turned into auto workshops contrary to the authority’s rules, he said, but instead of taking action against this the CDA has been targeting hostels.

He added that other than three, all the high rise buildings and residential apartment buildings in the capital are operating without completion certificates.

However, the CDA spokesperson claimed the authority does not discriminate and takes action across the board.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2019