ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) counsel on Tuesday accused the Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) — which has moved the court against the construction of the Bhara Kahu bypass on the university’s land — of trying to seek “undue advantage” in return for giving a nod to the project.

CDA’s counsel Hafiz Arafat Ahmed was arguing before Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb on a petition by the faculty of the university against the project which splits the QAU campus into two parts.

The counsel said the project was started after getting all necessary approval and added that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was done while the matter was pending before the IHC.

He said the project was initially devised by the National Highway Authority (NHA) and it also got the EIA from the Pakistan-Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA). However, the federal government was unable to allocate funds, therefore, the bypass project was shelved.

He said the CDA made another attempt about a year ago but the Pak-EPA did not clear the project. According to him, the Pak-EPA approved the EIA recently.

The CDA lawyer denied the claims of environmental degradation and chopping of trees as claimed by the petitioner and informed the court that he has “footage of the site before the commencement of the project and the most recent one”. Advocate Arafat argued that the faculty members were trying to exploit the situation to get benefits to which the university was not entitled.

QAU demands ‘illogical’

He read out the demands raised by the university during the preliminary meetings regarding the bypass project.

The university demanded that the “land allocated for Bhara Kahu bypass will not be transferred to CDA and shall remain the property QAU; hence, the right of way shall also remain with QAU”. However, the counsel said since the CDA acquired the land for the bypass and was responsible for its maintenance; therefore, the title of this land would not be given to the university.

He said the second demand of the university was the issuance of the letter of allotment for the promised 225 Kanals of land in 24 hours. The counsel stated that this will be done in accordance with the law.

He said that the authority agreed to construct an underpass at Shahdra Road and a service road of 24 feet wide on either side of the bypass shall be built, adding that the demand for the construction of a mini underpass was not “feasible”.

He informed the court that the civic agency was ready to construct a new road linking Murree Road to QAU, which will provide a dedicated main entrance to the university.

According to the counsel, another demand that the “CDA Board will consider a dedicated ‘Green Line Route’ from Bhara Kahu to QAU to Bari Imam and to the Secretariat Metro Station’ and a shuttle service from Bhara Kahu’s main terminal to QAU for which the students will be entitled to 50pc discount has nothing to do with the mandate of the university.

In response to the demand for the removal of encroachments, the CDA lawyer said the civic body will make efforts to remove all encroachments on QAU’s land subject to detailed information and maps shared by QAU and after the demarcation of the varsity land.

The CDA lawyer also termed the demand for lease renewal for 33 years without any charges as unreasonable.

He added the demand for the “waiver of the outstanding amount against the land lease, annual ground rent and property tax from the federal cabinet” and the request for an Rs500 million bailout package was also illogical.

Moreover, the construction of “one hostel for students will be constructed through the Higher Education Commission Pakistan’s Umbrella Project” as it was not the domain of the CDA, the counsel said. According to him, the construction of an academic block, permission to use a certain portion of its land for mixed-use i.e. community centre, petrol pump, residential complex, education city, and executing these projects with private funding has nothing to do with the education and seeking such undue benefits is tantamount to exploiting the situation.

Moreover, the counsel said that the CDA was duty-bound to mitigate the noise pollution and plantation of trees – another concern raised by the QAU against the project.

During the hearing, the counsel for the petitioner argued that the bypass project jeopardised the Rs10bn funding for a proposed project pertaining to the construction of the China-Pakistan Joint Research Center on Earth Sciences. Justice Aurangzeb observed that neither the petitioners nor the university’s focus were on the environmental degradation of the project.

Aziz Nishtar, counsel of the petitioner told the court that he wrote a letter to Pak-EPA asking it to take cognisance of the project. Justice Aurangzeb noted that the said letter has not been placed before the court and advised the counsel to seek relief from the said forum. He observed, “This is a court of record and we cannot consider any letter floating anywhere.”

The court adjourned further hearing in this matter till Dec 9.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2022

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