The Capital Development Authority (CDA) rarely, if ever, managed to get in the news for the right reasons this year.
Three is the number of chairmen who headed the authority during a mere period of 12 months. Pursuing the traditional approach which is in vogue in other government departments also, every successive chairman shelved the projects and plans initiated by his predecessor, badly affecting the functioning of the already under-performing civic agency.
Financial crunch for the authority, which worsened during 2013 owing to the unrealistic and non-serious approach of city managers, overshadowed persistent civic issues. Consequently, the affected citizens voiced grievances against every chairman who found it even harder to pay off the monthly salaries to over 13000 CDA employees as compared to their predecessor.
When it came to projects of public importance such as a decent public transport system, affordable housing, potable water, development of stalled sectors et cetera, the city managers were surprisingly static. On the other hand, citizens who visited CDA offices found officials running from pillar to post to get residential plots allotted to them.
The year of 2013 dawned with Syed Tahir Shahbaz holding the office of chairman CDA. Known for his integrity and impartiality among bureaucratic and political circles, Shahbaz was shown the door by former premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on his last day at office, before the installation of a caretaker setup prior to general elections 2013. The reason for this was alleged to be Shahbaz’s refusal to allot residential plots to some senior bureaucrats affiliated with the office of the former prime minister. However, the apex court intervened and restored Shahbaz to his post.
Shahbaz initiated projects including the re-planning of sector I-15, accelerated work on public transport and Park Enclave. He also initiated a number of inquiries against CDA officers on the recommendations of a judicial commission formed by the Islamabad High Court.
However, as the PML-N government was installed at the centre in May 2013, it ousted Shahbaz in the June of same year. A senior bureaucrat, Nadeem Hassan Asif, affiliated with the PML-N was brought in to streamline the messy affairs of the authority.
Asif, who has a vast experience of dealing with Punjab government departments’ officers, did not fulfil the expectations. During his tenure, he initiated a handful of useless projects including Office and Auto Enclaves, a Corniche Road and Restaurant. He scrapped the projects of Park Enclave, the development of sector I-15 and the initiation of a bus rapid transit project undertaken in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank.
Asif’s days were numbered too, as he was ousted owing to poor performance. Currently, an officer of grade 20, Maroof Afzal, is heading the civic agency and has not yet disclosed his priority list. During the same period, major reshuffles of first tier officials including members were made. Two grade 20 officers including former member planning and design, and former member administration challenged their transfer orders from respective posts.
Throughout the year, land was sold off to run day-to-day affairs of the authority. A total of six land auctions were held during 2013.
A drive initiated during the time of Syed Mustafain Kazmi against non-conforming use of residential units, which crossed the 2000 figure, was halted after his removal from the office of member planning.
Inquiries into cases of plot allotment to the non-entitled CDA officers were initiated separately by FIA and NAB. These included the Saffa Mall at Markaz F-7, 4000 missing files of sector I-14, large-scale spending on advertisement of land auction at sectors D-12 and E-12, Kashmir High Way dualisation, et cetera.
The law wing of the authority remained unsuccessful in tackling thousands of pending litigations at different courts of Islamabad.
The environment remained a neglected subject, with public parks presenting a sorry state of affairs.
The general public’s confidence in CDA schemes sunk to its lowest. Despite tall claims, the authority consistently failed to develop Park Enclave even after repeated promises. A number of overseas Pakistanis had invested in that scheme, but the CDA stunned them at the outset by conducting a fraudulent balloting of plots at the housing colony. The rigged balloting issue is being investigated by NAB and FIA currently.
Not a single developmental project was initiated by CDA this year. Moreover, the pace of work for the handful of ongoing projects remained considerably below the targeted projections.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2014.
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