ISLAMABAD: The semi-demolished Margalla Towers that fell in the 2005’s devastating earthquake still stand with their fate undecided. On October 8, 2005, one and a half of the three blocks of the residential apartments caved in, claiming 72 lives and injuring many more.
Recently, there has been a failed attempt by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to auction the plot of Margalla Towers. The highest bid received by the authority was Rs1.35 billion, which CDA deemed unsatisfactory as it had already paid Rs1.75billion to the families affected by the tragedy, as instructed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
According to CDA spokesperson, Ramzan Sajid, the payment made by the civic body to 143 owners of the apartments was for both the land and the structure but the auction only included the land. Another CDA official, asking for anonymity, cited severe financial crunch faced by the authority as the actual reason for the cancellation of the bid- the authority, he said, could not bear the loss of around Rs400 million.
Before that, CDA had invited firms to bid for the demolition of the blocks still standing. Eight companies showed interest. CDA shortlisted two and awarded the contract to one of them. However the losing firm moved to the court against the award. Fearing controversy, the winning firm opted out and withdrew its deposited security.
The case against Ramzan Khokhar (the owner) and concerned CDA officers, according to official sources, was wrapped up after the government appealed to a high court against a lower court’s verdict declaring Khokhar guilty. Khokhar then fled abroad after receiving Rs10.8million in compensation for the four apartments he owned in the towers.
According to Margalla Towers Islamabad Residents’ Society, the quantitative and qualitative tests carried out by University of Engineering and Technology Taxila, Messrs Designmen (Structural Engineers), Geotechnical Engineers (Geologists), Japanese Society of Structural Engineers and National Engineering Services Pakistan (Investigation in progress) proved that the basic reason behind the collapse of the high-rise residential towers was poor construction work.
The committee members also hold CDA solely responsible as the sponsor, regulatory and supervisory authority of this project.
They claim CDA withdrew independent consultants during construction in 1993, and did not carry out the final inspection despite being informed about the buildings’ defects in 1993 and 1998.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2010.