Greater good? CDA mulls request to move medical varsity to F-9 park

Health authorities have requested permission to use an abandoned illegal building in the park

Danish Hussain December 09, 2015
Abandoned park in F-9 area of Islamabad. PHOTO: EXPRESS


It appears indecision, rather than legal barriers, are stopping city managers from granting or denying the use an abandoned building in Islamabad to house a state-run medical varsity.

The Capital Development Authority is considering turning down a request from health authorities to convert the 20-acre Citizens Club complex at Fatima Jinnah Park into a medical university.

In 2010, the structure of the club was near completion when a Supreme Court’s ruling declared the facility illegal, as it would only serve the “elite of society with a commercial perspective”, and had been built in violation of laws governing the use of public amenity spaces.

Although millions of rupees were spent on the facility, its doors never opened as the CDA abandoned the project in light of the ruling.

Health authorities have now requested that the CDA allot the building for the establishment of a medical university. A similar request made in 2013 was declined by the CDA.

Dr Javed Akram, vice-chancellor Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University and the person who initiated the request, feels the apex court decision works in his favour.

He quoted an excerpt from the detailed judgment, dated May 13, 2010, which says, “as now a huge amount has already been spent, therefore, the CDA, with the approval of the federal government, instead of abandoning the project, may utilise the building for any public welfare project such as a women’s university, medical or engineering college, science, technology or Information Technology institution, etc.”

Akram said the SC never wanted the taxpayer money spent on the structure to be wasted. “The ruling categorically states that it can be utilised to establish a medical college,” he said.

Currently, he said, Federal Medical and Dental College, the sole government-owned facility in Islamabad, was operating out of a building meant for s medical laboratory in Chak Shahzad area.

“[FMDC] has insufficient space, while facilities are also low. The current building is in dilapidated condition and is not fit for medical education,” he said.

If the request is approved, FMDC will be shifted to the Citizens Club building.

Nayyar Ali Dada, the principal architect for F-9 Park, had prepared a Rs 1.3 billion concept design for the Citizens Club, which has structures including clubhouses an auditorium, conference rooms, fitness centre, gymnasium and aerobic area, tennis courts, squash courts, billiard room, games room, swimming pools, banquet halls, restaurants, bakery, library, car parking and residential rooms.

CDA’s concerns

The SC judgment allows for conversion to a medical varsity, but if the CDA gives permission in violation of its own land use rules, it would have adverse consequences for the city master plan, commented a senior officer, who declined to be named.

The federal government has already approved the allocation of a significant chunk of Argentina Park for the expansion of Polyclinic Hospital, he said adding that this was the second such case.

“Why do the government and departments always eye public spaces and parks for construction,” he said. Hundreds of acres of land in Islamabad, which can be provided at subsidised rates to execute public welfare project, he added.

He said the Supreme Court’s detailed verdict also mentions a Supreme Court of India case where the Indian court overruled a lower court order which had authorized the construction of a hospital on land marked for a public park.

“If we continue to give such permission using public welfare projects as the excuse, one day all public parks in Islamabad will be converted into universities and hospitals,” he concluded. He informed that a recently Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat also discussed that issue with CDA high ups and legislators also accepted that request may have to be rejected.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2015.


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