CDA’s plans to nowhere
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) is now synonymous with the government failure to provide for its people’s housing needs. Its last successful project was sector G-11 in 1987.
Take the case of sector E-12.
The project was launched in 1970s to provide around 5,000 housing units. Soon after the land acquisition began and sale of plots was announced in 1984.
However, nearly 30 years later, “The authority does not possess the land in sector E-12,” said a high ranking official of the authority who spoke on the condition of anonymity. CDA could not agree to the compensation with the original land owners.
Mazhar Hussain is still to get possession of the 500 sq yd plot allotted to him in 1992. Mazhar, 75, who now lives in Karachi with his brother told Dawn on telephone: “I am still waiting. Recently I have been assured by the Supreme Court that the issue will be resolved by the cabinet division-run CDA. There is no time line but CDA has to submit fortnightly reports to the apex court.”
CDA officials blame the federal government for the failure.
One of them explained that when the land acquisition for the capital city began in the 1960s most of the land was vacant and easy to acquire. There was no hard and fast rule about the compensation.
“The locals were given agricultural land in Punjab as per the federal government policy while a few others were given cash,” said the official.
CDA’s Land Directorate official, while talking to Dawn, explained that “CDA opts for the land vacation process under the ‘Land Accusation Act 1894’.” The 1894 Act facilitated the government’s acquisition of privately-held land for residential or educational needs and allows for owners to be paid market rates. But in 1996, the then PPP government introduced a new policy.
The official explained that residents are now compensated financially for not just the land but also the built-up property present on the land.
Built-up properties are the structures including houses, shops, plazas that exist at the time that the land is being acquired. Land owners with a 300 sq ft piece of land with an established structure on it are to be compensated with a 138 sq yd developed plot while land owners with construction area of 500 sq ft are eligible for 233 sq yd.
This is where greed rushed in – the moment CDA announced a new sector, people, conmen and opportunists began to encroach upon the land in order to win a plot in its developed sector. This hindered CDA’s land acquisition and became a financial burden on the authority.
“Perhaps Islamabad is the only city where people are given alternative residential plots. The 1894 Land Act does not allow plots for built up property,” said the official. The increase in land prices in Islamabad also encouraged encroachment. The official said that in 1996 the land prices for 138 sq yd plot was around Rs250,000 while today it has crossed over to Rs6 million to Rs10 million in a developed sector.
A file in the possession of the board member revealed a note from the Patwari that sector F-8 was acquired in a day in 1963 with the help of only two military soldiers. Around 4,000 acres was acquired then by CDA. But at present, CDA would probably not be able to clear a small park with this much assistance.
Not an innocent bystander
However, CDA is not as much of a victim as its officials make it out to be.
Observers point out that its officials have for the sake of personal gain or under political pressure caused the delay in the completion of its own sectors. This it may have done at the behest of those who want the housing shortage to continue so that the private housing societies flourish.
A former Deputy Director General (Retired) Planning CDA said that if CDA started its residential projects in the city, it would control the crime and land mafia. The authority’s own record can also be judged from the number of investigations it faces in the courts and by investigating agencies.
“The National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency declared CDA’s award of land flawed from 1999 to 2005,” said a current official of the CDA. Just recently Babar Awan, a PPP senator who had alienated the party leadership, has filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court asking it to open investigations into the illegal allotments by CDA.