RAWALPINDI: Since the Rawalpindi Development Authority has failed to crack down on illegal housing societies, more than 318 schemes are operating in the jurisdiction of the district without the approval of the RDA, causing a strain on civic amenities and threatening the environment. Only 70 housing schemes are approved in the district.
“The planning wing is not active and it has failed to keep a check on developers regarding their designs to start a private housing society without any permission [from RDA],” said a senior official while talking to Dawn.
He said that it was the “duty of the civic body to develop a housing society as a model” and then ask the private developers to do the work on that pattern. But the civic body was busy in collecting fees from the developers and doling out permissions without due diligence, he claimed.
“The Punjab Land Revenue Authority took notice of this practice and sought the details about the violations in the approved housing societies; however, despite warnings, the branch failed to collect the details from these housing societies,” he added.
318 schemes operating without NOC; only 70 approved; authorities warn housing schemes against hiring illegal guards
Under the law, he said, the housing societies were supposed to install a water supply, a sewerage system, a graveyard, schools, colleges and public parks in their limits. “The land of these public facilities was supposed to be transferred to the government [as well],” he said.
Talking to Dawn, RDA Director General Saif Anwar Jappa said that there were only 70 housing schemes approved in Rawalpindi while the remaining were illegal.
He said that before his arrival in the RDA, the record of state land was not properly maintained but he managed to get all the record digitised. He said that the land revenue department helped the RDA to maintain the record of the state land in the housing schemes.
“We have asked the owners and developers to get approval from the civic body,” he said, adding that the warnings of the RDA were ignored. He said that the matter was taken up by Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha who gave the ‘final’ warning to the owners and asked them to get their schemes approved to avoid blacklisting.
Private guards and display of arms
The RDA DG said efforts were also underway to curb the use of ‘private militias’ by the owners of the housing schemes.
The RDA warned the developers and owners that they will not keep guards without the approval of the police and relevant departments. The owners travelling in the areas with a fleet of armed guards was illegal and it also terrified the local landholders, he added.
The housing schemes allegedly use hired gunmen to threaten local landowners to sell their property at a low price as compared to the market rate.
The District Intelligence Committee last month recommended action against illegal housing societies because the presence of arms and private guards increased the crime rate in surrounding areas of the city.
Divisional administration has taken serious notice of illegal activities and display of arms in the private housing schemes and asked the developers to follow the law otherwise, the government would take action against them.
Last week, Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chatha chaired a meeting along with the Rawalpindi regional police officer at the Commissioner’s office regarding security issues in the private housing schemes of Rawalpindi. RPO Syed Khurram Ali said that the owners of housing schemes were involved in illegal occupation against which notices were issued.
The commissioner issued strict instructions to society owners to complete the documents to obtain NOC and to stop the sale of plots till the NOC issuance. He said all housing scheme owners should follow the law and submit the applications as per the law.
RDA DG Jappa said illegal possession of arms and illegal guards would not be allowed and strict action would be taken against the owners instead of the security guards. He added housing schemes which have completed the legal documents have been processed and the RDA has been issuing press releases from time to time asking the public not to invest in illegal housing schemes.
During the meeting, the commissioner said this was the last warning to the owners that the government was determined to take strict action against illegal housing schemes, especially those who hired security guards without the permission of the authorities. Their owners will be booked on charges of terrorism, he warned.
Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2023