Islamabad - ISLAMABAD - The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has failed to take action against what it considers illegal occupation of a vast piece of land in Zone-III near to sector D-12 of the capital. The Supreme Court had directed the CDA to retrieve the land from illegal occupation of locals, including some influential of the capital city, who have connections with a political party.

Some days back, the officials of the Enforcement Directorate and other high officials visited the area with the purpose to initiate operation to retrieve the land but they had to face stiff resistance from the occupants, according to the CDA officials who were part of the anti-encroachment team. An officials told The Nation on condition of not to be named that the occupants did not even allow the CDA staff to start the operation. “They (CDA officials) were abused verbally by the locals before they were forced to pack up and leave the scene,” the official said, adding the activity was just a compromised show to register efficiency.

In August 2014, then Chairman CDA, Maroof Afzal had ordered anti-encroachment operation against the illegal structures and other encroachments in violation of CDA Zoning Regulations. Chairman CDA had said that the operation against the illegal and unauthorised farmhouses and housing societies in the area would continue, which have been established against the CDA Zoning Regulations and without the permission of CDA in the surrounding of Margalla Avenue and Shah Allah Ditta areas of Sector D-12. During the operation, the anti-encroachment team of CDA permanently closed and dismantled the unauthorised approach roads, which lead towards the illegally established housing societies and farmhouses in Pind Sangriyal, adjacent to Sector D-12. The occupants again started illegal structures, unauthorised approach roads in gross violation of Building Bylaws and Zoning Regulations. While such structures, illegally erected by the people in Zone-III are absolutely against the Zoning Regulations of CDA. CDA had then also warned the violators and encroachers against the illegal construction activities in the surroundings of Margalla Avenue and Shah Allah Ditta areas and asked them to abide by the CDA Building Bylaws and Zoning Regulations in Zone-III but all in vain. CDA had also warned the people to refrain from construction activities in Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) as well as around Margalla Avenue and Zone-III. However, neither the violators stopped nor the CDA took any major action against them since.

 In 2016, the Islamabad Citizens’ Forum had also urged the city’s managers to protect the Margalla Hills from encroachers. The forum had called the press conference in support of a CDA operation against an illegal housing society by the name of North Ridge in Shah Allah Ditta during which, the Authority claimed it retrieved 100 kanals of land. The CDA had claimed that in its operation, it had retrieved 100 kanals of forest land adjacent to D-12 from an illegal housing society. The Islamabad chapter of the Jamaat-i-Islami and some of the locals had alleged that the CDA conducted the operation because its Member (Administration) is involved in property business in the area and was forcing them to sell him their lands for a nominal price. The Member was later replaced. The JI leaders also leveled allegations against the Member (Administration) including misuse of authority and accumulation of wealth beyond unknown sources but the NAB exonerated him of all the charges. On the other hand, the stance of the CDA remained unchanged. CDA still considers the occupation by the locals and construction activity in the area as illegal and unauthorized. NAB had recommended that CDA takes immediate steps by initiating the land acquisition proceedings in Zone III to protect the Margalla Hills National Park.

According to a National Accountability Bureau report, seven illegal housing societies are operating on private land in Zone III of Margalla Hills, where housing societies are not allowed to operate. Private builders allegedly backed by some influential have started carving out plots on about 3,000 kanals of state land in the Sri Saral village falling in the National Park area on the foot of Margalla Hills. The land, a few hundred feet north of Sector D-12, was acquired by the CDA in 1969 and declared as the National Park area.

The construction activity at the national park area had started during the previous government but the civic agency could not stop it because the people involved in it were backed by influential personalities of the capital. Private developers have been bulldozing the hills in the north of D-12 and carving out plots. During the last three years, residents of the areas had filed a number of complaints with the CDA seeking action against the land mafia though the CDA failed to stop the illegal activity. It may be recalled that in July 2002, the CDA conducted an operation in Sri Saral, sector D-12, against illegal constructions that left two villagers dead and more than 60 injured.