The Capital Development Authority partially de-sealed the Centaurus Mall — a high-rise shopping centre located in Islamabad’s F-8 sector on the confluence of Jinnah and Faisal avenues — on Tuesday evening after a day-long closure over violations of building regulations.
The director of CDA’s Building Control Department, Nasir Mehmood Butt, told Dawn.com that the first floor of the mall had been reopened, while the basement was still sealed because of “nonconforming”.
“The basement was being used for commercial activities which is illegal,” he said.
Earlier in the day, traders and PTI leaders claimed that the mall was sealed overnight in an act of “political revenge”.
However, a notice pasted outside the mall stated: “The premises has been sealed on account of non-conforming use by order of director building control-city, CDA (Capital Development Authority).”
Videos circulating on social media showed barbed wires placed outside the mall, with a police mobile unit parked nearby.
In a December 2 notification, the CDA said that the orders to seal the mall were being issued on account of the failure to “remove building violations”.
The notification, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, read: “Consequent upon the persistent non-compliance to remove building violations conveyed vide numerous 15 days notices served by Building Control Directorate […] and a show-cause notice … the sealing order of the subject premises/ property is hereby issued, in accordance with ’Islamabad Capital Territory Building Control Regulations 2020 framed thereunder CDA Ordinance 1960 and terms and conditions of allotment/ sale agreement.”
‘Pathetic, vengeful, fascist’
The PTI linked the sealing of the mall to criticism of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif by Azad Jammu and Kashmir premier Sardar Tanveer Ilyas — who owns the mall — for “not mentioning the sacrifices of Kashmiri people” during a speech on Monday.
PM Shehbaz inaugurated the refurbishment project of units 5 and 6 of the Mangla Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant, built on the Jhelum river in Mangla area of AJK, on Monday where he addressed the project’s inauguration ceremony.
As he was winding up his speech, Ilyas interrupted him and asked what he had done for AJK.
In a video clip that went viral on social media, PM Shehbaz could be seen gesturing to the AJK premier to sit down and raise his concerns after the speech.
According to a witness, after wrapping up his speech, PM Shehbaz hurriedly left the venue without heeding to Ilyas, who tried his best to get the premier’s attention.
Later, at a press conference, Ilyas said PM Sharif’s body language and gestures spoke volumes of his “irascibility”. He also said PM Shehbaz’s omission of Kashmiris’ sacrifices in his speech was tantamount to “insulting” the Kashmiri people.
On Tuesday, PTI chief Imran Khan weighed in on the matter. “Sealing of Centaurus Mall by [the] PDM mafia in response to PM AJK censuring Shehbaz Sharif for not mentioning sacrifices of Kashmiris shows there is law of the jungle in Pak since last 8 months,” said Imran.
The move “sends negative signals to Kashmiris too. Question for our honourable judges: Are they not upholders of the law?” he tweeted.
Later, retorting to Imran’s tweet, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb fired a volley of allegations towards the PTI chief and said he had better not tell the premier what he should say on Kashmir.
Separately, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry also claimed that the sealing of Centaurus Mall was a consequence of Ilyas’ criticism of the premier as the former ran the mall.
“First his car was stopped in Mangla and today, in Islamabad, his business Centaurus Mall was sealed. A more fascist and non-democratic government has not come to power in Pakistan’s history.
“If you are meting out this treatment to the AJK prime minister only for his criticism, what message are you giving to occupied Kashmir? What message are you giving to the investors in this country?” he questioned.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Shireen Mazari termed the move “pathetic” and an example of “petty vengeful behaviour” of the incumbent government.
“The petty vengeful behaviour of crime minister and the state is showing everywhere, especially since they cannot get their act together to stop their economic disaster and political chaos. So PM AJK criticised Shehbaz Sharif for not mentioning Kashmiris’ sacrifices and Shehbaz Sharif responded by sealing Centaurus. Pathetic,” she tweeted.
Later in the day, the AJK premier said he was grateful to the support from Imran and others. He said he would not compromise on AJK’s rights and dignity or its relationship with Pakistan.
Ilyas’ antics bid for NOC, claims Atta Tarar
Meanwhile, PML-N leader and special assistant to the prime minister Atta Tarar claimed that Ilyas’ antics during PM Shehbaz’s speech yesterday were a bid to “pressurise” the premier into issuing no-objection certificates for his housing societies in Islamabad.
“Remember this […] the government will only issue NOCs according to the law,” he said in a press conference earlier today.
Tarar stated that the Centaurus Mall had been issued four notices, two of which were issued during Imran’s tenure, over violations and failure to conduct building inspection.
He also claimed that the way Ilyas disrespected Shehbaz yesterday had “harmed” the Kashmir cause across the globe. “The entire world was shocked at what happened yesterday […] it showed that Pakistanis are fighting among themselves.
“You may have a lot of money but this doesn’t mean you will be allowed to harm the Kashmir cause internationally,” the PML-N leader warned.
Moreover, he alleged that Ilyas had “bought” the premiership of AJK from Imran and had no cause.
“An auction of the seat of AJK prime minister was done and the highest bidder was chosen,” Tarar said.
Decrying the development, All Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran (APAT) President Ajmal Baloch termed the sealing of the mall “in the darkness of night an act of revenge”.
A statement by the APAT quoted him as saying that placing curbs on livelihoods for “political revenge” was not appropriate and that the sealing of the mall was clear evidence of the “act of revenge”.
“Livelihoods of several traders are associated with Centaurus Mall and its closure will deprive several employees of jobs,” he said, also mentioning that the building also comprised residences.
He added, “Those who advised sealing the mall have damaged the reputation of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif”.
Baloch vowed that they would not let the traders’ community become a “victim of political revenge” at any cost.
“The trader community of Islamabad is standing with the traders of Centaurus Mall,” he said.
The APAT president demanded the government immediately issues directives for de-sealing the mall and warned of “blocking Jinnah Avenue” otherwise.