The restaurants stretched across almost 2.5 kilometres in Phase VIII of the Defence Housing Authority face the threat of being uprooted due to a notice issued by DHA authorities, asking them to shut down and vacate the premises.
According to the restaurant owners, the notice was issued on March 22 without any reason or lawful justification. According to the court’s record, the second notice was sent on July 11 ordering the owners to vacate the land before August 15.
The affected restaurants – Sajjad, Charcoal, Creek Inn, H & Q Business (Kababees), Hot Bite, Ambala Corniche, Café Echoes and Olive Café – filed a set of petitions with the Sindh High Court, asking that the agreement with the DHA management should be treated as a lease, not as a licence.
On September 10, Justice Munib Akhtar of SHC granted an interim stay to the restaurant owners until the next hearing against vacating their premises and issued notices to the DHA management to appear before the court on a date yet to be decided.
The petitioners, represented by lawyers Farukh Zia Shaikh and Munir Ahmed Panhwar, told the court that they were given the indication that their contracts would be renewed after the two-year period was completed.
According to the petitions, the DHA allotted an open piece of 1,500 square yards to each restaurant through a written lease agreement on July 6, 2011, which was purported as a licence agreement. It also said that the monthly rent for setting up a restaurant at Beach Avenue was set at Rs100,000 for an initial period, starting from May 6, 2011 to April 30, 2012 with an increase in rent at the rate of 10 per cent per annum.
A DHA official, on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the notice was nothing out of the ordinary and was part of running a business. When asked about the reason for this notice, he said that the authority will elaborate in their official statements “when it was the right time and once everything was decided and final.” He also clarified that there was still possibility of the contracts being renewed.
Association of Defence Resident’s general-secretary, Asad Kizilbash, told The Express Tribune that even if DHA had substantial reasons for taking this action, they should have held meetings and gotten residents’ approval. “Since DHA works as a commercial entity, it should involve the public more and think about people’s welfare rather than just profit,” he said, adding that the association could not act on its own and could only take action if they received a complaint. “We can take the matter to court only if we are approached and the matter is genuine.”
The restaurant owners allege that their multi-million investment, which is more than Rs6 million, will go down the drain and at least 3,000 employees will lose their jobs if the agreement is not renewed. The owner of the popular Sajjad Restaurant, Sajjad Dayo, stated that DHA officials had been unjust with them on various terms. According to him, the agreement was made in July 6, 2011, which was a long-term commitment and beneficial for both parties.
“The management made the agreement on two bases – to populate the place and create a recreational facility for the residents,” he said. “They used our business as a gamble to see whether the facility would work or not. And when it has, they now want to give the space to other people.”
He alleged that the DHA officials had promised to renew the project, lamenting that most of the owners had set up their businesses through personal investments.
Ambala’s CEO Adnan Ahmed also said that he was extremely disappointed in the way the management had dealt with the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2013.