ISLAMABAD: A four-member committee has been formed by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to identify officers who were involved in processing and leasing out Monal Restaurant and other buildings in the protected area of Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP).

This has been done in compliance with the orders of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Jan 12, 2022. According to a notification issued by the CDA’s Confidential Wing, the committee is supposed to complete its task within 15 days “so that disciplinary proceedings could be initiated against the delinquent officers/officials”.

Sources in the wing said Deputy Director General Land and Estate Afnan Alam would head the committee while Deputy Financial Adviser Khawaja Aizad Hussain, Director Laboratory Khalid Nawaz and Director Regional Planning Fraz Malik will be its members.

Body asked to assess transparency of bidding process, comparison of rent rates offered by the lease and accepted by the then CDA administration

The notification of the committee, which was issued on March 10, and is available with Dawn, tasked the committee to “identify officer involved in processing/leasing of land/structure of Monal Restaurant in the protected area of National Park in violation of the Act of 1997, Ordinance of 1960, Ordinance of 1966, Ordinance of 1979 and the regulations made under the respective statutes”.

According to the terms of reference (TORs), the committee has been given the task to identify factors behind construction of Monal Restaurant and other buildings in the protected area as it was in violation of various acts and ordinances.

The committee has been directed to “assess the transparency of bidding process for leasing of Monal to a private entity and comparison of rent rates offered by the lease and accepted by the then CDA administration with the then market prices for facilities of similar size and nature, identify/mention relevant provision of laws and regulations, infringed while allowing construction/lease of the Monal Resturant and to ascertain the loss/ damages to wildlife, flora and fauna and environmental changes in National Park due to said construction of the restaurant”.

While hearing a petition related to Monal Restaurant, the IHC in January this year had ordered the CDA and Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) to seal the building and start proceedings against other buildings that were operating in the national park in violation of rules.

Following the said orders, the CDA and ICT administration sealed the restaurant.

However, the Supreme Court on March 9, suspended the Jan 11 IHC judgement of sealing and taking over possession of the restaurant.

“The unsigned order of the IHC will remain suspended,” ordered a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan. Consequently, Monal Restaurant was de-sealed.

The court, which had taken up the appeal of Monal Group of Companies, pointed out why no action was taken against the other 13 restaurants situated in close proximity of Monal and why Monal was discriminated against only and on what basis, its possession was taken over without the certified copy of the high court.

The IHC had ordered the CDA and IWMB to take over forthwith the possession of the restaurant and seal its premises, subject to allowing its owner/management to take out their property.

The CDA, after construction of the restaurant, had leased it out to a private firm for 15 years and the lease agreement expired last year.

However, a few years before the expiry of agreement, the lessee started paying rent to the military, which stated that the land where Monal was constructed belonged to them in accordance with a notification issued in 1912.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah rejected the military ownership’s claim over the land and ordered recovery of all the rent paid by the Monal Restaurant management.

The court had also asked the defence ministry to ensure that the amount received as rent was deposited in the exchequer.

“The claim of Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate of Pakistan Army, regarding 8,068 acres of land in the notified national park area is in

violation of the Ordinance of 1979, read with the Ordinance of 1960, and the [Islamabad] Master Plan,” the IHC had declared.

The IHC chief justice had also directed civic agencies to seal the sprawling naval golf course located in the national park area and unless an environmentally-friendly use can be found for it, ordered its demolition within four weeks.

A senior CDA officer confirmed that the inquiry committee had been formed and added that the committee was yet to hold its first meeting.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2022

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