ISLAMABAD, July 22: While the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) is being taken to task in the Supreme Court, it seems as if no one has noticed the rules violated by the CDA while making a deal with the Defence Housing Authority (DHA).
CDA’s role in this latest scandal has also come to light as the court picked up the issue. But the civic agency, it seems, was aware of its weak position and tried to cover its tracks.
It held meetings and wrote letters to show that it had made efforts for the retrieval of its lost land from the DHA and even warned the latter of legal actions.
It is important to note that the land measuring 321.3 kanals, which the DHA sold to the EOBI for Rs15.74 billion, was parceled out from the 868 kanals that were partly owned by the CDA and Commoners Town (CT), a private housing society.
This CDA and CT land was acquired by the DHA in 2008 after signing agreements with both.And by this year, the CDA was trying to push the issue with the DHA - if the civic authority’s records are to be believed.
On May 16, shortly after the May 11 elections, the CDA member estate asked the DHA to provide the layout plans and arrange physical inspection of the developed plots promised to the CDA in exchange for the land it (DHA) had taken six years back.
On July 5, CDA Director Estate Management-I Mohammad Latif Abid wrote to Brigadier Saadullah Fatimi, the administrator of DHA, that “the developed plots (as per agreement) be handed over… to CDA, failing which CDA shall have to review the alternate options.”
In 2008, the DHA offered CDA 729 developed plots in its extension project in exchange for the land.
The CDA immediately handed over 2,412 kanals to the DHA but six years later it is still waiting for the allotment letters and layout plans from the DHA. Not a single plot has been handed over to the CDA.
The letter by the CDA director estate management was written two days after a meeting held by CDA Member Estate Shaista Sohail which was also attended by secretary DHA Col (retired) Ijaz.The agenda of the meeting was to review “the inordinate/inexplicable delay on part of DHA… in defiance of the agreement between CDA and DHA.”
It is not difficult to guess the atmosphere of the meeting as the minutes record that, “Member (Estate) CDA opened the session with a very serious view that DHA’s non-implementation of the signed agreement is an unacceptable violation of the agreement.
“She underscored that the DHA committed 729 plots… in lieu of the land. However, the agreement has been violated for the last six years by DHA.”
The member (estate), according to the minutes of the July 3 meeting, also warned the DHA that “… failing (a prompt reply from DHA) CDA shall review the alternate options which may extend to the cancellation of the agreement and/or filing of a writ petition with the court of law for non-conforming to… the agreement.”
But more serious is the fact that legal experts find the CDA-DHA agreement illegal.
Mohammad Ramzan Chaudhry, member Pakistan Bar Council and a former legal adviser to the CDA, is one such lawyer. He said the Supreme Court in its judgment on the E-11 northern strip case had declared that the CDA, being a development authority, cannot assign its role to any other organisation.
The CDA Board in 2009 had approved the development of the northern strip on a joint venture basis with MPCHS (Multi-Purpose Cooperative Housing Society). This agreement was declared null and void by the SC.
The court in its judgment said, “The CDA, which is a statutory body established by law, is mandated not only to make arrangements for the planning and development of the capital city but is also authorised/compelled to perform functions of a municipal committee.”
Chaudhry quoted the judgment and added that “Under the Islamabad Land Disposal Regulations 2005, the authority cannot give its land to any developers.”
According to him, the agreement with the DHA was even worse than the Joint Venture (JV) deal between the CDA and the MPCHS.
He disclosed that the CDA had handed over 2,412 kanals to the DHA under its land-sharing formula. However, the lawyer pointed out that the formula had been introduced for acquiring land from villagers for the development of sectors.
In other words, this formula was introduced to allow the CDA to buy land when it was short of cash. It would promise the landowners a developed plot in exchange for the land.
Chaudhry added: “In this case, the CDA took over the role of a landowner and gave its land to the DHA in exchange for developed plots later.”
CDA Member Estate Shaista Sohail could not be contacted for comments despite repeated attempts while Asiya Gul, a CDA spokesman, expressed ignorance about the matter.
When contacted for comments, a spokesman for the ISPR promised to get back but did not so till the filing of this story.
Secretary DHA Col (retired) Ijaz, however, according to the minutes of July 3 meeting with the CDA Member Estate, “admitted the delay and had no cogent reasons to defend the delay. He gave no firm time lines except expressing the hope that the matter shall be formally responded to by the DHA shortly.