THE move to seal a hostel in Islamabad’s E-11 area for violating CDA bylaws reveals a severe lack of forethought on part of the development authority. On the one hand, the CDA, by turning a blind eye to the many commercial enterprises that function illegally outside its own headquarters, has implicitly condoned the former’s practices. On the other hand, a very large number of students will be displaced as a result of the CDA’s efforts to seal private hostels. Thousands of students enrolled in many public and private universities in Islamabad have no choice but to live in private hostels because the educational institutes where they study do not provide them with adequate lodging. Many students come from outside the capital and do not have any relatives in Islamabad. Most of these private hostels are overcrowded and lack proper amenities but there is no alternative to them. Though the HEC is responsible for ensuring that university campuses have adequate facilities before taking in students, even the basic requirements are often overlooked when awarding NOCs to sub-campuses or private higher educational institutes. It is an open secret that all high-rises and apartment buildings — except for three — in Islamabad functions without obtaining completion certificates.
Considering that there are far more serious violations of the rules, if the authority wants to act against establishments that operate outside CDA by-laws, it should ensure that the implementation of its regulations is across the board. As far as the hostels are concerned, most students stay there out of compulsion. It a fact that the owners and managers of private hostels exploit the situation for their own benefit, but it is equally true that it is the CDA itself that allowed its regulations to be flouted in the first place. Many of these hostels have operated for years and the CDA has tolerated them. If the CDA wants to take action, it should provide ample notice to the students to make alternative living arrangements instead of forcing them to live in constant fear of displacement.
Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019