ISLAMABAD: There are no structural stability issues in the PHA Foundation’s (PHAF) multi-storey apartments in I-12 and the project has been unsealed by the Capital Development Authority (CDA), a parliamentary committee was told on Wednesday.

The project was discussed in detail at a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Housing and Works.

The PHAF is building 3,200 flats in the CDA’s undeveloped I-12 sector. The project is also being constructed with the approval of its mandatory layout plan by the CDA.

The building was sealed by the CDA on Sept 26 and unsealed on Nov 4, the committee was told. Construction work is now underway.

Parliamentary committee told project was unsealed by CDA and construction is underway

The multi-storey apartment buildings were highlighted in the press because they were executed without an approved layout plan or building plan, and because of allegations that the foundation is changing the route of a nullah.

During the standing committee meeting, Housing Minister Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema said there was no structure stability issue. He claimed one of the contractors were circulating false stories in the press about the building’s bearing capacity 38 months after the project began.

He also said that no building is placed in the nullah bed and the foundations of all the buildings are on the firm strata with varying depth ranging from 20 to 30 feet.

He said the project was launched by his predecessor during the tenure of the PML-N.

“The contractor is circulating false information just to blackmail us,” he claimed, adding that a number of contractors were engaged in the project to carry out work in packages.

“Except one, the MAAKSONS construction firm owned by one Nadeem Khan, all the others contractors have completed a significant portion of the project and they did not raise the issue of load bearing capacity, but MAAKSON is trying to get the project halted to seek escape from contractual obligations,” Mr Cheema alleged, adding that the firm had a history of raising disputes and lodging unnecessary claims and pursuing them through arbitration.

Committee chair MNA Mohammad Najeed Haroon pointed out that in addition to the contractor, a director also wrote about structural stability. The minister claimed: “That is also a different story. The officer in question was also closely linked with the contractor.”

When Mr Haroon asked about the mandatory no objection certificate (NOC) and layout plan from the CDA needed to start the project, Mr Cheema said that since this is a government project there is a general understanding that government departments begun projects and take approval from the CDA later.

He cited the examples of the Supreme Court building and PHAF buildings in G-10/2 and G-11/3, adding that a number of private buildings have also been built without approval.

He said the PHAF submitted its layout plans to the CDA and is in touch with the authority. The PHAF also recently engaged the engineer in chief of the armyfor a geo-tech investigation to determine and reconfirm the bearing capacity and “the job is in progress”, he said.

The committee was informed that the CDA had some reservations on the project’s NOC. After hearing from the housing minister, the committee decided to summon the CDA chairman to its next meeting for the authority’s point of view.

When contacted, an official from the CDA’s building control section told Dawn that this project has not been formally unsealed by the authority.

On Nov 4, we told them that the cancellation of allotment and taking over or sealing of the project has been provisionally stayed subject to the fulfilment of requisites and the submission of an undertaking, the official said.

This undertaking has not been received in order to being the unsealing process, he added. “If the PHAF is interpreting the letter in question as unsealing that is their thinking, not the factual position,” he said.

The standing committee also discussed out-of-order elevators in the 18-storey Shaheed-i-Millat Secretariat building. Housing ministry officials said three of the five elevators are completely out of order and one falls abruptly from the 15th floor to the second.

Public Works Department (PWD) Director General Shahid Farzand said the department has prepared a project to replace these elevators, but the Planning Commission dropped it from the list of Public Sector Development Programme projects.

He said he has told the commission in writing that in the event of any mishap, the PWD will not take responsibility.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019