Lawyers playing footsie with new chambers

Officials say they cannot do much unless court vacates stay order

Photo Zafar Aslam/Saqib Bashir February 03, 2018
View of encroachment by lawyers on F-8 ground. PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM

ISLAMABAD: People are crying foul after the all-powerful lawyer-lobby has started encroaching on a football ground adjacent to Sector F-8 Kutcheri to build chambers.

The civic agency, which had mustered the courage to take stern action against encroachment by a mega-shopping mall in the city, seems to be powerless in dislodging encroachment by lawyers.

Nevertheless, for local residents and football players, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) are apparently acting as silent spectators.

The CDA, though, had tried to stop the black coats from the encroachment and had issued eviction orders. The lawyers, though, managed to win the court’s favour and secure a stay order against the notices and the next hearing of the case is scheduled for February 10.

“We have raised our voice on every forum but no one has heard us,” UC-28 Chairwoman Fauzia Arshad said. She added that they had written applications to the Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz, CDA Chairman Usman Bajwa, ICTA, director enforcement and other relevant officials, but none have taken an action thus far.

Sector F-8 residents Imran Waseem, Junaid Afzal, Nadeem Khan and others said that even though lawyers are educated and are well aware of the benefits of affording the youth an opportunity to play in parks and to stay away from bad habits, it was inexplicable that they had encroached on a playground to build their chambers.

An official of the Islamabad administration said that it was the CDA’s responsibility to take action against encroachers and that it was likely to do so when the stay order expires.

The hearing of the football ground case is scheduled to take place on February 10. In the court, the CDA has adopted the stance that an operation against all encroachment is the underway in the city on the orders of the Islamabad High Court.

The authority has maintained that all kinds of encroachment, including large shopping malls, are being taken down, and hence, the land grabbing of the playground must be termed illegal.

They had expressed the fear that with a stay order, the lawyers would continue their construction activity in the heart of the capital.

On the last hearing, UC- chairwoman Arshad, a body of traders and the ICTA had failed to submit a reply upon which the court issued notices to the respondents with directives to submit a reply by the next hearing.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad District Bar Association President Riasat Ali Azad and CDA’S Kashif Malik had deposited power of attorneys, and are expected to represent their respective sides at the next hearing.

The encroachment by lawyers is nothing new. The lawyers had tried a similar move back in 2013 as well. At the time, it was the traders of Sector F-8 who had resisted the move. This time, they are trying to encroach on another section of the field with foundations half laid.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2018.