The embarrassments keep on rolling in for the CDA. Islamabad’s cash-strapped civic body has endured a week in which its chairman was issued a contempt notice for threatening a would-be whistleblower, the courts ordered the body to stop handing out plots to every Taimur, Danyal and Hassan, and the Public Accounts Committee directed NAB to investigate the civic agency’s affairs in light of a plethora of decade-old scams.
While the last is probably not attributable to the current CDA administration, it is significant as it could directly affect hundreds of city residents, specifically the residents of Park Towers, a private housing complex in F-10 which three former CDA chiefs apparently pushed through despite the builder having defaulted on three quarters of the land payment.
While some would want to believe it may have been in the public interest, vis-à-vis creating more affordable housing, methinks it was to help the former chiefs move in to more unaffordable housing.
The PAC meeting concluded with a very interesting finding---on paper at least, Park Towers is still CDA property. What no one brought up is the fact that the millions of rupees invested in apartments by hundreds of residents are now in question. While nobody is about to ask them to vacate, NAB has suggested that after an inquiry begins, transfers of apartments would be stopped and the property itself may be frozen if required.
The CDA chief spent the week being accused of nepotism, corruption, fudging records and attempted witness intimidation after he threatened a CDA deputy director who dared to reveal the nature of mismanagement in the agency. Yet, despite getting a severe talking down in court for his own alleged misdeeds, Iqbal insisted on getting an earful from the PAC for holding back the names of those accused of being involved in the Park Towers scam, including the name of the builder, which anyone with an internet connection could have pulled up in under a minute.
In the corporate world, if such masochistic behaviour was displayed by a head to the oversight body or the board of directors, he would be out of a job. Fortunately, the government of Pakistan functions as a how-to guide on destroying successful businesses (refer to the stupendous failure of Bhutto’s nationalisation plan for more details).
As for the other two problems, the stay on granting plots to journalists and government officials makes sense since the CDA was accused of breaking rules by granting plots in developed sectors instead of undeveloped/under development ones, which would be perfectly legal. Of course, land resale values are much higher in developed sectors, so those requesting postings in the CDA in pursuit of plots stand to ‘lose’ a lot of money if the rules are followed. More precisely, they would get lower profit margins on the resale of undeveloped plots, since wherever the land is, it will be given to the recipients at throwaway prices.
But the contempt notice and subsequent sealing of the Municipal Affairs Directorate was the most telling event. A few months back, Iqbal junior was driving a government car --- which is illegal --- and rear-ended a civilian’s car, before threatening civilians and journalists with dire consequences and screaming in the streets about how his dad is the King of Islamabad. No action was taken against him or his dad, and questions abounded about poor parenting, considering the stupidity of making such statements to top off an already illegal act.
However, it now seems that the father moulded the son in his own image, as the older Iqbal pulled an unexplainable move of his own by threatening his accuser via text message (among other methods), apparently forgetting that text messages can be saved, and telephonic threats recorded. The Municipal Affairs directorate was then sealed off by the chief, claiming it was to protect documents from being fudged, which is ironically one of the things he himself is accused of ordering.
Corruption aside, the CDA chief seems hell-bent on not only ruining the civic body with his brilliant decisions to hire people the agency doesn’t need and doling out contracts it can’t afford, but also his own reputation, which is already in the mud.
Fortunately for the citizens of Islamabad, Iqbal’s actions in court suggest he has a desire to move out of the comfortable CDA chairman’s residence to a much more compact jail cell.
The writer is a sub editor on the Islamabad Desk. [email protected]
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2012.