The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) bill, that had been lying in cold storage for several years, was introduced in the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. The bill aims at establishing a housing society in Islamabad and was floored in the National Assembly when the opposition benches were almost empty.
The DHA Islamabad owns approximately 183,000 kanals of partially developed land comprising four phases. The land has been allotted to some 138,000 members, however, strong reaction from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) forced the government to put the bill on hold.
One such attempt was made by the government in 2011 and the PML-N warned even to “physically block” the bill while terming it unconstitutional.
Introduced by Defence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar the statement of objects and reasons for establishment of the DHA, Islamabad says, “Welfare and Rehabilitation Directorate of Adjutant General’s Branch of the GHQ, Rawalpindi, viewed with great concern that the beneficiaries of Pakistan Army were facing immense hardship for settling down.” According to statement, widows, families of shaheeds, disabled and retired army personnel will particularly finding it hard to settle down. “Therefore, need arose to establish a welfare housing scheme for the aforesaid purpose,” it adds.
“Due to expansion of Army Housing Scheme, Morgah, a necessity was felt to convert the Army Welfare Housing Scheme into a separate legal entity so as to run its affairs more smoothly and independently like the DHA, Karachi, and DHA, Lahore,” it added.
The 25-clause bill has defined the role and structure of the authority, governing body (to be headed by secretary Defence and having Adjutant General of Pakistan Army or serving Lieutenant General of Pakistan Army to be nominated by Chief of Army Staff as its vice chairman).
The PML-N had earlier said that the presentation of the bill in the assembly was violation of the constitution because it dealt with a matter related to provincial government and that the government should not give preferential treatment to a particular housing society as there were thousands of other such societies.
Former military dictator General (retd) Parvez Musharraf had promulgated the DHA ordinance on February 22, 2005. It was provided constitutional cover through Article 270-AAA, that was inserted into the constitution after promulgating emergency on Nov 3, 2007.
When Supreme Court declared the steps taken by General (retd) Musharraf unconstitutional in July 2009, the government was given a chance to table all ordinances including the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and the DHA before the Parliament for approval.
However, stiff resistance of the PML-N did not let the ruling PPP to get it passed from the lower house and on April 17, 2010 the DHA ordinance was promulgated for the seventh time.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2013.