Anyone who grew up in Islamabad in the last decade will have fond memories associated with Hotspot at Haunted Hill. It was a place where students would head after college and school, where young professionals would go to after a long day at work, where many birthdays and farewells were celebrated, and where a plethora of water and colour fights took place.
The cheesecakes and squidgy chocolate cakes served here would please even those with the most discerning sweet tooth, and its homemade ice cream could give any renowned brand a run for its money.
It is no surprise therefore, that citizens were enraged as photographs of the demolished kiosk of the beloved eatery went viral on Facebook Thursday night.
It also made many wonder what the Capital Development Authority (CDA), the civic agency responsible for the action, is attempting to develop when it seems they are pushing the capital ‘back into the Stone Age’.
While few opposed restaurants running in residential areas being closed down, it was the brutal demolishment of the Hotspot kiosk that made people speak up.
Omar Khan, the owner of Hotspot, told The Express Tribune that the location was designated and approved by the CDA itself.
“We cannot be equated with people running businesses from homes, as we did not violate any law,” he said, adding that, “We were not given any intimation, notice or warning, not even verbally – the bulldozer arrived with a posse of policemen who it seems demolish first, then ask if what they ruined was legal or not.”
Khan also clarified that all bills and dues of the location had been cleared. It was also cleared by both the health and food departments.
He said what happened to Hotspot could only be described as state vandalism.
“After this, I have a better understanding of why people turn to illegal means to deal with situations in our society. Sometimes playing by the rules simply isn’t good enough,” he added.
Shanza Faiq, a student at LUMS who grew up enjoying Hotspot’s squidgy chocolate cakes, said the recent arbitrary destruction [of Haunted Hill’s destruction] has deprived Islamabad of an integral part of its urban culture, and a significant part of her generation’s childhood.
“Not only was this destruction uncalled for, it also strips Islamabad of its uniqueness; its tranquillity and character,” she said.
Tulin Khalid Azim, theatre actor, pondered the main argument behind the Supreme Court order for shutting down commercial operations in residential areas, which supporters use as the “legality” in their actions.
“Hotspot has proven it had every legal right to be there, so what happens now?” she asked. “My frustration is equally with the people of Islamabad – if they cannot support their local businesses, they truly do not deserve to have them,” Azim added.
Meenah Tariq, an entrepreneurship consultant, said she was unable to understand how businesses can flourish in an environment where decisions like this are taken.
“Instead of supporting local businesses, our government and administrative organisations are hurting the local economy by destroying profitable businesses,” she asked.
CDA denies Hotspots’ claims
The spokesperson for the civic agency, Ramzan Sajid, said the authority had sent prior notices to all encroachers before carrying out the demolition.
“This operation is not targeted against anyone,” he told The Express Tribune, adding that over 200 locations had been razed in the last two days in the ongoing operation. Most of the razed structures are small kiosks operating in the city.
Kiosk owners protested against the ‘admin’s brutality’ on Friday, and were arrested by the police. They claim they had obtained all necessary permissions from CDA before establishing their shops.
Sajid said an internal inquiry was being held to ascertain who granted permission to the illegal cabins.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2015.