IHC seeks report on status of Grand Hyatt land

Updated November 26, 2019

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Bench observes CDA was willing to extend favours to people with influence, while it was tough on those without. — AFP/File
Bench observes CDA was willing to extend favours to people with influence, while it was tough on those without. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday sought a report on the status of the plot allotted to the Grand Hyatt luxury hotel, which was cancelled by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and restored by the Supreme Court.

An IHC division bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb asked the CDA Director Planning Faraz Malik for information on the status of the land on a petition by a private housing society seeking the renewal of their layout plan.

The bench observed that the CDA appeared willing to extend undue favours to people with power and influence, while it was tough on those without.

Advocate Sheikh Khizer Rasheed, the counsel for the housing society, told the court that the CDA had relaxed its rules for the Bahria Enclave and was also willing to regularise the lease of the cancelled Grand Hyatt plot on orders from the SC.

He said the housing society submitted a revised layout plan to the authority in 2005, which was kept pending until 2016. During that time, the petitioner built a structure in accordance with the plan.

A single member IHC bench, on a petition by some residents of the housing society, had ordered the CDA to cancel the society’s land and asked the authority to take over management of the society, he said.

Mr Rasheed cited identical cases when the authority regularised anomalies by influential builders and real estate developers.

Mr Malik from the CDA told the court that he was not aware of previous developments because he was only recently posted to the planning directorate.

The court subsequently summoned the member planning on the next date of hearing. The court also sought details regarding the regularisation of housing schemes by influential developers, including the Grand Hyatt case.

The SC restored the lease for land meant for the luxury hotel earlier this year. The lease had been cancelled because the lessee built and sold residential apartments.

The CDA cancelled the lease of the 13.5 acre plot to M/s BNP in July 2016 due to a number of violations and irregularities.

On Jan 9, the SC set aside an IHC order and restored the lease, directing the firm to pay the CDA Rs17.5 billion over eight years.

The company had challenged the high court decision in the SC before a bench led by former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

Buyers of the aforementioned apartments include Prime Minister Imran Khan, former chief justice of Pakistan Nasirul Milk, Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ehsan Mani, Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Federal Ombudsperson for the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Kashmala Tariq.

The CDA had leased land to M/s BNP in 2005 to build a luxury hotel near the Jinnah Convention Centre. The lessee instead built 240 luxury flats.

According to the last auction, the cost of the aforementioned land if auctioned for commercial purposes and not a hotel is more than Rs58bn.

The plot was auctioned for the construction of a luxury hotel, but the building plan approved was more or less for mixed-use commercial purposes. This violated planning parameters and by-laws approved by the CDA board in 1997.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2019