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PESHAWAR, July 1: Gulbahar, the first planned residential colony of the provincial capital, is rapidly turning into a commercial hub as owners are demolishing their houses to build multi-storey plazas and markets.

The residents of the erstwhile peaceful and upscale locality of Peshawar complain that the growing commercial activity has badly affected their life. Many families have shifted from Gulbahar to Hayatabad Township and other residential localities of the city because of growing business activities.

Investors are building plazas, markets, restaurants, banks, filling stations, departmental stores and wedding halls along the main roads of the locality. Many owners have converted ground floors of their houses into shops because of growing demand in the market.

Old residents of the area said that before development of Hayatabad Township, Gulbahar was the first planned and most peaceful locality in Peshawar, but its unplanned expansion had destroyed its beauty and calmness.

“From business point of view, it is good, but residential areas should not be used for business and commercial activities,” said Mohammad Haroon, an old resident of Gulbahar. He said that life was badly disturbed since people started business activities in the locality.

He said that people in the adjacent Nishtarabad area, another planned residential colony, were also demolishing houses and constructing plazas and markets.

Mr Haroon said that it was the responsibility of city district government to ban construction of commercial outlets in residential areas. He said that construction of multi-storey plazas was badly affecting residents’ privacy.

Mohammad Hussain, another resident of the area, has demolished his house built over a two-kanal plot. He is building a two-storey market on the piece of land. “He has planned to build his house on the third floor of the market,” said a contractor.

The residents of the area said that since law and order deteriorated in the provincial capital, people had restricted visiting main shopping areas like Saddar, University Road and downtown as a result investors established shops, restaurants and other business outlets in Gulbahar.

According to market sources, unprecedented surge in the property prices in Gulbahar is one of the major factors of mushroom growth of markets and multi-storey plazas.

A property dealer said that per marla rate in main Gulbahar was ranging between Rs1.2 million to Rs1.6 million. He said that residents of Rashid Town, extension of Gulbahar, were also looking for investors.

Ghulam Rasool, another resident of Gulbahar, opposed shifting of major commercial activities to the residential areas and said that it was the government’s responsibility to place complete ban on such activities.

“There is a ban on construction of plazas and markets in Hayatabad, University Town and Defence Colony,” he said, adding that construction of markets in residential area was a violation of law. But city’s bosses have given free hand to investors to construct markets over residential plots.

An official of Peshawar Development Authority said that under the existing laws the owner could not change purpose of the residential quarters and what was happening in some locality of the city was clear violation of the bylaws.