LAHORE: Following the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) hearing in a suo muto case, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has suddenly declared all marriage hall businesses illegal except nine recently constructed banquets, marquees and event complexes in the provincial capital.
The authority has directed owners of these marriage halls to shut down their businesses within 30 days and cancel all events booked beyond the deadline of January 31. The LDA has also warned citizens to make alternative arrangements if they have mistakenly booked their function in any of these illegal marriage halls.
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The authority has also issued lists of approved and unapproved/illegal marriage halls on its official website and the same is circulated among citizens through mass media. These lists show that only nine marriage halls, marquees and event complexes in Johar Town, Garden Town, Muslim Town, Gulberg Main Boulevard and Raiwind are legal and rest of 151 in almost all areas of the city are illegal.
Speaking to The Express Tribune an LDA official, on Tuesday, pointed out that all these marriage halls and marquees were illegally constructed in violation of building regulations and land use rules. Most of these banquets halls have inadequate or no parking space so they were creating traffic mess in the city.
Responding to a question, he indicated as per directions of the apex court, the authority has decided to launch crackdown against all illegal constructions in the city. Though, the authority has warned all marriage halls about possible legal action and demolition but it is too early to comment about the fate of the marriage hall business in the provincial capital.
“The LDA is evaluating different options and proposals to find out a middle way as it would be unwise to close hundreds of businesses and make hundreds of thousands of people jobless,” he maintained.
Lahore Marriage Hall Association (LMHA) President Mian Ilyas said the city developer has declared only 151 marriages halls illegal whereas the city has over 600 marriage and banquet halls. “All these marriage halls fall in the jurisdiction of district government where the LDA has no power to regulate,” he said.
“Most of these marriage halls and marquees,” he pointed out, “were built during recent decade. Marriage halls and marquees paid millions of rupees on account of legal fees and speed money to get approvals from the LDA.”
“The city developer had been collecting annual commercialisation fee from all the marriage halls till last year. But now all of a sudden all the marriage halls have been declared illegal, which is very unjustified,” he remarked.
“Recently, the authority had launched a crackdown against marriage halls. Dozens of marriage halls were forced to shut down their businesses on the pretext violations of LDA’s regulations. Everywhere in the city, the authority has given approval for commercial buildings without following parking regulations but it has launched crackdown against marriage halls only,” Ilyas said.
A banquet hall proprietor from College Road, Hafiz Muhammad Rauf, said business community has invested over Rs100 billion in marriage halls, marquees and event complexes. The sector has generated over 200,000 direct and indirect jobs in the city but now the authority has put us in a very complex situation just to mint more money. Most marriage halls have already taken stay orders for courts otherwise the city developer would have closed down their businesses.
A perturbed citizen at the booking office a marriage hall in Township area, Muhammd Anees, said he wanted to lock a booking for his daughter’s wedding in the second week of February but he was confused if the government would seal marriage halls where would he entertain the guests.
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“In the past, he said, “it was not difficult to host weddings and other functions at homes, parks and even on street after making some arrangements because the city had limited population and traffic. But now the population has been increased manifolds. It has become virtually impossible to hold such functions on roads these days.”
He said both the government and the LDA should revisit the decision on marriage halls and find out an alternative solution to manage traffic chaos.
As per the LDA regulation, a minimum of four kanal land is required for the construction of a marriage hall. The marriage hall should have an ample parking space to avoid traffic congestion in the area. The LMHA representatives have appealed the government and the Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a commission of different stakeholders to chalk out a workable strategy.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2018.