KARACHI, Aug 15 All three residents associations who were asked by the Defence Housing Authority to nominate their representatives for a committee which was to be formed for a discussion on the controversial 'refurbishment charges' have rejected the composition and the terms of reference of the committee.

According to sources, DHA secretary retired Lt-Col Najam-ul-Hassan Rishi had approached the residents' bodies — the Association of Defence Residents, the Defence Society Residents Association and the Defence Residents' Society — to send the names of their nominees for a committee that is to discuss the imposition of the refurbishment charges.

The committee had been formed by the DHA after objections were lodged from various quarters regarding the imposition of refurbishment charges. The DHA plans to collect between Rs3 billion and Rs4 billion from its over 25,000 members, and has already begun collecting the fee from residents who have visited the DHA offices for other property-related work.

After the news of the DHA's plans was broken by the media, residents took a united stand and refused to pay. The matter was also raised in parliament, and a National Assembly committee is looking into the issue.

Realising the mood of its residents, many of whom are politically well connected, the DHA called a meeting of the residents' bodies, where it was decided to form a committee to discuss the issue. In the meantime, the collection of the refurbishment charges was put on hold.

The DHA approached three associations and also sent them the terms of reference of the committee.

The secretaries of all three associations — Asad Kizilbash (ADR); Shamim Zaman (DSRA) and Dr Huma Mir (DRS) — in their communications have informed the DHA that the composition as well as the terms of reference of the committee are not acceptable to them.

Sources said that the DHA had nominated five of its officers - four of them retired army officials (Brig Iftikhar, Brig Saleem, Lt-Col Siraj, Lt-Col Mohsin and Jamal Macdi) - for the committee, which is to be headed by DHA administrator Brig Tirmizi. It also asked the residents bodies to nominate five representatives - two members each from the ADR and DSRA and one from the DRS. The residents rejected the proposal as they wanted an equal number of members - six from the DHA and six from the residents' associations - on the committee.

The terms of reference (TORs) as prescribed by the DHA are provided below

“The committee will work out and propose a suitable relief for paying refurbishment charges for the following categories of residents widows and retired residents with no means of earning a living; families who suffered financial losses during the 2007 rains; hard-hit families.”

It will also review the time period allowed by the DHA, which is two years for payment of refurbishment charges, and will propose reasonable extensions in the time period for the payment.

The residents maintained that they considered the refurbishment charges to be “illegal” and hence they did not plan to pay. However, as the DHA needed funds, they were ready to discuss the issue regarding the generation of said funds. The current TORs were not acceptable, the residents said, because they presumed that the residents had accepted the legality of the refurbishment charges, and that all that was left to negotiate was the time period and mode of payment.

Responding to Dawn'squeries, DHA secretary retired Lt-Col Rishi, said that the meeting of the committee had not yet been held, as now it had been decided that first the National Assembly committee's meeting would be held and later the residents would be approached.

In response to another question, he said that in the meantime the refurbishment charges were not being collected from residents.

DHA spokesperson retired Col Rafat Naqvi refused to comment on the matter.

The DHA had imposed the refurbishment charges on its members to recover the cost of its newly laid storm water drain system, estimated to be over Rs2 billion.

On their part, residents have demanded that the DHA pay for the damage caused by the rain, saying that the original planners of the housing scheme had neither laid, nor left adequate space for, a storm-water drainage system. The DHA has refused to disclose the names of the planners of the housing scheme.

Residents have also expressed concern over the fact that the newly laid drainage system has drains located in the centre of roads, rather than on the sides. They say they have never heard of or seen such a drainage system anywhere else in the world.

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