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CDA Chairman to be Fired for Opposing Regularization of Bani Gala

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Government has decided to remove Afzal Latif, Chairman Capital Development Authority (CDA) due to his opposition to the regularization of Imran Khan’s Bani Gala properties.

Sources told The News Tribe that the decision to remove Hayat was made in the Federal Cabinet’s meeting held on Thursday.

Sources said that the government has decided to appoint someone from the private sector as chairman of CDA. They were of the opinion that in the presence of Latif as CDA chairman, the government was facing problems in regularization of Bani Gala and Grand Hayat properties that belong to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Afzal Latif was appointed as chairman of CDA in September this year. Before the appointment, he was serving as Additional Secretary – Establishment Division.

Afzal Latif is a BPS-21 officer of Pakistan Administrative has a good repute in terms of integrity.

All you need to know about Bani Gala

In May 2017, the to be Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, urging him to take suo motu notice of the unchecked illegal and unregulated constructions and encroachment in Bani Gala area of the Federal Capital, which is causing environmental degradation and disturbing the ecosystem of that area.

The letter attracted CJP’s attention, who took suo motu notice of the issue. Subsequently, the apex court issued notices to the relevant authorities including the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

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During the course of hearing of the case over time, the relevant government bodies and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration submitted their replies and reports in the Supreme Court.

Ironically, the process against illegal constructions and encroachments triggered by PTI chief and incumbent Prime Minister led to the disclosure that the palatial Bani Gala estate of Imran Khan was also unregularized, thus falling in the category of illegal construction.

The Bani Gala area is predominantly an upscale neighbourhood, which has been built in violation of the original master plan of Islamabad.

The issue of the illegal and irregular constructions in the area regularly appears in media. But the issue was never addressed properly, given its influential inhabitants.

In the 2017’s letter to the CJP, Khan cites environmental degradation of Bani Gala through deforestation and encroachments on protected land as evidence of the CDA’s administrative incompetence.

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Khan’s letter also raises the ‘unplanned and unregulated’ constructions in Bani Gala, lacking proper sewerage and waste disposal systems, which further threatens the environment of the region.

The letter was written by Imran Khan, last year when PTI made up the opposition. However, the situation has changed for PTI, that now forms the government, with Imran now in the position of Prime Minister.

The CDA sits in the portfolio of the Interior Ministry, managed by the PM himself. Although Khan was gravely concerned about environmental degradation in and around Bani Gala when he was in the opposition, not a single noteworthy action has been taken against illegal constructions or encroachments in Bani Gala since coming into power.

In the 1960’s Bani Gala was officially declared part of a National park, however local communities that owned the land for generations continued to live there.

CDA was required to first acquire this land from the local communities to develop Islamabad according to the official master plan. Although the CDA was able to acquire many villages next to Rawal Lake in the National Park area, Bani Gala remained un-acquired until it was discovered by a handful of affluent individuals interested in building their homes there.

The construction of luxury and elite houses started in the neighbourhood around the 1980s. At the time, the whole region was completely underdeveloped. What attracted these early homebuilders to Bani Gala were the low prices compared to other CDA developed sectors, and a spectacular hillside with lush greenery and streams located only a short distance from the Islamabad’s’ town centre.

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Due to the illegal and unapproved constructions, Bani Gala residents are responsible for significant deforestation and also dumping sewage into the Rawal Lake. Many elite mansions are within a two-kilometer radius of the Rawal Lake.

The CDA and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration had submitted to the court that there were as many as 122 illegal constructions in the area, including a portion of Imran’s sprawling mansion.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's Bani Gala residence.

The Bani Gala area falls in Zone III and Zone IV of the Islamabad Capital Territory. Zone III includes the two-kilometer area around Rawal Dam with the highest watermark, where constructions cannot be regularised.

However, the CDA is now aiming to regularise all of Zone IV which also includes the suburban areas of Khanna, Tarlai and the rural areas of the capital such as Malot, Pind Begwal and Maira Begwal. This, the civic body hopes will raise around a billion rupees in regularisation fees alone.

Mr Khan’s over 300-kanal house is located in the real estate of Mohra Noor and according to CDA records, it falls in the sub-zone ‘B’ of Zone IV.

The CDA and the Survey of Pakistan in their reports submitted to the Supreme Court also declared that Mr. Khan’s house was located in sub-zone ‘B’ of Zone IV.

The CDA recently started regularising buildings in areas on the directives of the Supreme Court.

According to the existing CDA regulations, after adopting a due process and paying a fine, buildings can be regularised in Zone IV. But the rules do not permit regularisation of buildings in Zone III.

Apparently, to remove the bar on regularisation of buildings, particularly in the zone where thousands of buildings have been constructed, the federal government recently decided to revise the capital city’s master plan to make it relevant with the current needs.

According to the Greek firm that prepared the master plan in 1960, successive governments were supposed to revise the master plan after every 20 years. But so far, no revision has been made to the master plan.
So far the CDA has received over 200 applications for regulating buildings in Zone IV. Most of the buildings are located in Bani Gala.

When the SC order regularization of the illegal construction in Bani Gala, the CJP asked the Prime Minister to move forward and be first to pay the fine for regularizing his house.

Following the SC order, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) served a notice to Prime Minister Imran Khan over illegal construction of his Bani Gala residence.

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During the hearing of the case, the Chief Justice said that before expanding the scope of its activities to other encroachments, the CDA should first take action over the encroachments found in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Bani Gala estate.

The Government, especially the Prime Minister tried every tactic to avoid the issue, but the Supreme Court did not stop pursuing it. When the CDA first issued the notice to Imran Khan, the employees at the palatial residence refused to receive it.

However, the Supreme Court remained firm and did not allow any escape route which compelled the Prime Minister to apply for regularization of his house.

Following directives from the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Imran Khan was among the 200 residents of the Bani Gala district, that have submitted applications to the top civic body to regularise their residences.

Imran has submitted documents pertaining to his property and a map of the residence to the Capital Development Authority for regularization.

Imran’s application is split into two parts. The first part is regarding regularisation of his residence which is shown to be spread over 250 kanals of land. The second part is for a building built to house guests on his property.

The CDA has set a fine of Rs. 100 per square feet for the regularization of private residences, and Rs. 200 per square feet for commercial properties. Moreover, the CDA has set Rs.3,500 per square feet as the development charges for commercial land. This will be charged separately.