Ingenious way to ‘legalise’ encroachments

CDA turns blind eye to illegal occupation of parking, playing areas by its own employees

Islamabad - The Capital Development Authority seems to have decided to ‘legalise’ encroachments and illegal occupation of the state land in the city, particularly when its own employees are involved in the crime.

With over 13,000 cases/applications pending against the encroachments and illegal occupation of parking and playing areas adjacent to the state-owned accommodations in different sectors of the city, the Enforcement Directorate of the authority has hardly thought of a decisive action against the encroachers, particularly against its own employees.

The excuse is absurd. “We cannot move against the old structures,” said a senior officer at the enforcement directorate when asked why the CDA is not taking action against the illegal extensions to the CDA-owned houses by none other than its own employees.

According to the officer who spoke on the subject on condition of anonymity, the concerned inspectors, in some cases, have reported that the constructions (illegal extensions) are quite old and any anti-encroachment operation against them may lead to a law and order situation.

When asked if the authority can move against the big wigs as Centaurus, Safa Gold Mall and other high-rise centres in the city irrespective of the fact when the encroachment was erected, what hinders it from taking action against its own employees, the officer had no answer.

Showing his helplessness, the officer said that the authority needs a comprehensive strategy to start action against the illegal rooms that have been built by the authority’s own employees at the state land adjacent to the accommodations and the rooms rented out to the aliens.

When asked is the CDA going to legalise the illegal constructions in the name of old structures, the officer said, “Practically speaking yes! At this stage at least, we are unable to take action against such encroachments,” he lamented.

The practice of occupying parking and playing areas becomes serious when the illegal extensions are done by the employees of the CDA, who are supposed to stop such a practice.

A large number of CDA employees are among those having occupied the land adjacent to their government-owned houses to construct spare rooms which is a clear violation of the CDA bylaws. Open space in front of the government accommodations is shrinking fast as the lust for money increases. Construction of illegal accommodations on the land reserved for parking and playing area emerged as a lucrative business in the capital as the illegally-constructed additional rooms were rented out at exorbitant rates. A survey conducted by The Nation revealed that such a single illegal room is being rented out at a rate of Rs7000-10,000 per month.

On the other hand, taking advantage of the lenient approach on part of the enforcement directorate, new illegal constructions on the same pattern are also continuing in the city.

The employees of the CDA, even in sector G-7 which also houses CDA’s Main Secretariat, are busy in occupying state land adjacent to their accommodations without any fear.

“The authority is not only legalising the illegal constructions by adopting a lenient approach but also allowing fresh illegal constructions by encouraging the violators by not taking action in this regard,” agreed a senior officer at the authority.

According to the CDA officials, the primary responsibility of preserving the parking and playing areas adjacent to the accommodations is of environment directorate. The officials said that a joint anti-encroachment strategy by both enforcement and environment directorates may give better results, however, he lamented that both used to pass the buck to one another.  The CDA officials have had to face stiff resistance from the encroachers whenever the authority started action against them.

The enforcement directorate is lacking will to demolish illegal constructions amidst shortage of resources and manpower. The police are supposed to provide cover to the CDA officials during the anti-encroachment operations but usually the police failed to do so. In some cases, the encroachers even beat up the officials and later got registered cases against them, stating that the action was illegal.

In 2014, the authority had decided to establish its own police station to get tough with the encroachers. According to the CDA, the step would help CDA accelerate its drive against illegal occupation of the state land. The PC-I of the project was drafted at the CDA headquarters after the then chairman and finance division of CDA approved the idea.

The full-time police station was to work under the command and control of directorate of enforcement of the Authority and will ensure law and order during anti-encroachment drives in the city. But since then there is no progress on the subject and the project is in doldrums, said the CDA officials.

According to the officials deputed at the enforcement directorate, the police staff is not attending the office properly and discipline of the force is poor, which is creating problems for the officials deputed for anti-encroachment operations.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the enforcement directorate carried out an operation in Blue Area of the capital city in which several illegal installations erected in the name of security and other encroachments established in front of different plazas were removed.

The joint operation was conducted against the encroachments established in front of different plazas including Saudi Pak Tower, Ufone Tower, ISE Tower and other building of the Blue Area. During this operation, barriers and iron fences were removed. Two security barriers installed illegally in front of ISE tower were also removed. However, the authority always seemed reluctant in taking action against the encroachments by its own employees.

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