The deteriorating visuals of Islamabad are a cause of concern for residents but it seems that some state representatives also share the pain. On Tuesday, a bill was introduced in the lower house of the parliament to ensure and maintain the master plan of the federal capital.
A Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker, Parveen Masood Bhatti, moved the bill to amend the Capital Development Authority Ordinance, 1960. In the bill, titled “Capital Development Authority (Amendment) Bill 2011”, the lawmaker has proposed measures to preserve the green image of Islamabad and to put an end to encroachments and haphazard constructions.
The bill highlighted the tendency in the recent past to convert public parks into residential and commercial areas, by which the city’s green areas necessary to maintain environmental balance are being removed. It suggested punishment for encroachers, land grabbers, unauthorised occupants and land encroachers.
“Some officers and officials of the CDA are involved in such [mentioned] activities to extend undue favours to some vested interests, which is dangerous to the beauty of the capital,” the bill reads, adding that unchecked encroachments or unauthorised occupations and possessions of state lands is causing loss of billions of rupees to the civic body.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan recently took suo motu action over such violations and directed CDA officials to retrieve public lands from illegal possession. Khurram Jahangir Watto, a treasury member of CDA, tabled a related bill in the National Assembly on April 27 this year. His bill suggests that in case of the mentioned violations, the offenders should be “imprisonment for a term of five years with fine, which shall not be less than Rs1 million or in accordance to the loss caused to the civic body”.
The bill also proposed that CDA officials should remove encroachments and illegal constructions at the expense of the party responsible for them. The amount spent on cleaning up the land shall be deposited in the account of the civic body through a duly issued challan for the purpose. In order to do so, it suggests some amendments in CDA Ordinance, 1960.
The bill said that Islamabad, being the capital of Pakistan and the only planned city in the country, “is expected to be free from all problems being faced in other over-congested and unplanned cities of the country”. But sadly, the treasury member noted, “that it is not the case anymore.”
Commenting on the conduct of CDA officials, it is mentioned in the statement of reason of the bill that no action is being taken when such unauthorised activity is initiated but later, “on the pretext of law and order problems, such violators are being rewarded”. Thus, the violation leads to further concessions in the form of plots and other facilities which is a “sheer mockery of law”.
The bill stated that it is necessary to punish such CDA officials as well as the actual violators, adding that it is also necessary to allow ordinary persons to report such violations directly to the police.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.