The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has failed to submit a complete report on the misuse of agricultural farms around the Federal Capital due to strong resistance from influential owners, who are closely connected with the corridors of power. The Supreme Court had ordered the civic agency to present a comprehensive report on the issue a couple of months back, but the refusal of farm owners to cooperate with CDA staff has left the authority in a muddle due to the amount of missing information on the agro-farms.
Sources in the civic agency told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that there are some major hurdles in formulating the report sought by the apex court. The court had taken a suo-moto action on media reports in May 2009, and issued a notice to the CDA chairman to carry out an inquiry into the issue. Prominent individuals, including former President General Pervez Musharraf and several others failed to provide records of their agro-farmhouses, while some did not even allow CDA inspection teams to enter their farms.
The CDA had written a letter to General Musharraf this July, asking him to provide photocopies of the records of his farmhouse, as the civic body does not have proper records of the exact measurements and many other features of the former president’s bungalow.
According to the sources, Musharraf’s staff had taken possession of all legal documents on the pretext of security reasons.
The letter, which was addressed to the former president, said, “It has been reported that at the time of approval of the building plan, all architectural and structural drawings were handed over to your representative without retaining any photocopies due to security concerns.” The letter further says that “It is therefore advised to produce all original drawings so as to assess the actual covered area at site vis-à-vis drawings and also to keep and maintain the official record of your farm house”. However the civic body has not received any response from the former military ruler.
But Musharraf is not the only one who has been using influence to stop the authorities from a thorough assessment of their farm houses. Several key judiciary members, politicians and members of the media are alleged to have resisted the search, which is creating problems for the team in compiling the required information. Leading lawyers Hafeez Pirzada and SM Zafar, former Supreme Court Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, former Lahore High Court Chief Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, Major General (retd) Syed Ali Hamid, Lietenant General (retd) Nadeem Taj, former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and former Finance Secretary Moinuddin Khan are some of the names in the long list of violators.
(Read: Agro-farming schemes: City elites persevere in their violations of CDA bylaws)
The CDA chairman appointed a commission which designated two teams that carried out a survey in their respective areas and submitting a detailed report about the total number, exact location and the covered area. There are a total of 610 agro-farms houses across the city, more than 80 per cent of which are being used for residential and commercial purposes, violating CDA by-laws which state that 80 per cent of the area has to be used for cultivation.
The agro-farms were allotted for the operation of poultry and vegetable farms, orchards and nurseries to meet the growing demands for vegetables and dairy and poultry items of Islamabad. However, these plots were acquired by influential members of the military, politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers and businessmen who converted them into luxurious bungalows, restaurants, and even marriage halls. This is a compete breach of terms and according to the bylaws, CDA can cancel the agreement and take possession of the building without any liability to pay compensation.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2011.