ISLAMABAD: Keeping in view the clauses of Islamabad’s master plan, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) devised land use laws to tackle any violation in time.
City bosses have been painting a picture of the capital as a planned city for half a century now, but on the ground, distinguishing between residential and commercial areas has become a rather difficult task.
City managers seem helpless in the wake of a staggering rise, as shown by CDA figures, in the non-conforming use of houses in residential areas for commercial purposes.
The lists, compiled by the building control section (BCS) of the Planning Wing and available with The Express Tribune, put the number of such violations at 2,057.
Embassies, non-governmental organisations, the UN, political parties, media houses guest houses, beauty parlours, seminaries and shops, can be found operating in almost every one of the capital’s residential areas.
A large number of educational institutes, hostels, private hospitals and clinics can also be seen on the list.
The record states the residential areas in the sectors of F-series have the most violations with 889 houses turned into commercial outlets, with 225 in F-7 alone leading the sector-wise list.
Similarly, 461 houses in G-series sectors are being used for commercial purposes, with 135 housing units in Sector G-6 — the closest sector to the Diplomatic Enclave and Constitution Avenue — leading the list.
Some 375 housing units in I-series sectors are also being used in violation of zoning laws, while 53 houses are in non-conforming use in E-7.
The authority’s inability to force its writ in established sectors makes it no surprise that the situation is just as bad in the four CDA-administered model villages. Humak tops the list with 201 such violations, while 42 violations have been identified in Rawal Town, 15 in Margalla Town and 21 in Shahzad Town.
Although a huge expanse of land in the Diplomatic Enclave has been dedicated to the establishment of embassies, around 19 foreign missions still operate through embassies in residential areas.
The embassies include Lebanon, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Ukraine, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Oman, Afghanistan, Romania, Bahrain, Jordan, South Africa and Brazil.
Office of the United Nations and NGO’s have also their set ups in residential areas.
Most unfortunate perhaps is that almost all private education institutes in the city have made the list and represent the second-largest chunk of violators. They include Beaconhouse, City School, Head Start, Roots and Froebel’s.
The offices of both national and international broadcasters are also operating from residential units, with the local offices of the BBC, Sach TV, Royal TV, KTN TV, Rohi TV, Sohni Dharti, Hum TV, APNA News, News One, ARY and several others are operating from within houses.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), is also among 2,057 land use norm violators, as its central secretariat is located in a house in Sector G-6/2. The same goes for Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz, with its central office located at a residential unit of Sector F-8/3, and the Pakistan People’s Party, which also operates out of a residential property.
Eight seminaries have also been established inside houses of different sectors.
According to an official of the concerned wing, the actual number of violators might be much higher.
“People carry out commercial activities in residential areas because it is cheaper for them...In a bid to hide the under-performance, BCS officials do not mention the actual numbers,” he revealed
Meanwhile, CDA spokesperson Asim Khichi said notices had already been served to violators and “in several cases, fines have been imposed on owners of houses that fall under non-conforming use while some are under trial.”
Whether or not the authority will go beyond serving notices and taking nominal face-saving actions to keep the planned city illusion alive, or whether it takes concrete action to evict these businesses remains to be seen.
Businesses operating in residential units
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th,2013.
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