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Construction of Ring Road section yet to begin despite vacation of stay order

Construction of Ring Road section yet to begin despite vacation of stay order

LAHORE: A powerful real estate group continues to obstruct the construction of Ring Road Southern Loop-III since 2016 on the pretext of stay orders, land acquisition and other issues, leaving the government indecisive on such an important matter for long.

Recently, a stay order issued earlier on the land acquisition was vacated. However, the government is yet to give the Lahore Ring Road Authority (LRRA) a go-ahead to commence construction on the project, Dawn has learnt.

“It is a matter of great importance since hundreds of thousands of motorists have been waiting for the construction of the [portion] to access the hurdle-free route. But unfortunately, the government, despite vacation of the stay order recently, still seems helpless before a powerful property tycoon.

The phrase ‘might is right’ fits perfectly here,” an official deplored. “Since the stay order was vacated last month, why is the government still reluctant to get the construction of the loop launched?” he questioned.

Court cleared the way in March; govt yet to give authority go-ahead to begin construction

The SL-3 starts from Adda Plot on Raiwind Road and ends at Maraka on Multan Road passing through Bahria Town. The land acquired for the route, including the chunks falling within the housing colony and other disputed areas, has already been transferred to the provincial government. It is to be constructed at Rs10 billion under a public-private partnership and build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis. The project cost would be recovered by the contractors through toll from motorists within 25 years.

The first contract of the project had been signed and awarded to a leading private firm for Rs8bn, which also took part in the construction of Orange Line train (Package-1) in 2016. However, when an LRRA team reached the site in August 2016 to make way through Bahria Town by breaking a boundary wall, its security officials offered resistance and tried to block the team’s way. The standoff ended on police’s intervention.

In the meanwhile, the housing scheme’s administration and others dragged the government in litigation and obtained a stay order despite the fact that a compensation of around Rs550 million had been deposited with the court’s treasury as per its directions.

In 2017, the court vacated the stay order. However, the aggrieved parties, mainly Bahria Town, again got a stay by filing an intra-court appeal. The stay was again vacated in 2018.

In October 2018, a joint team of the LRRA, city district administration and police retrieved a major chunk of the land from the housing scheme, paving the way for construction work. Led by the then commissioner Dr Mujtaba Piracha and former deputy commissioner retired Capt Anwarul Haq, the team demolished 73 houses, four plazas and other buildings to clear the way.

The official said while the authority was ready to start construction, the Punjab government decided to restart the bidding process in 2018, blaming its predecessors for not ensuring transparency in the process. This further delayed the construction work.

The bidding process was completed in 2019 and the project awarded to the National Logistics Cell for Rs10bn. An agreement was signed on June 13 last year.

“Surprisingly, the court again granted a stay on June 26, 2020 at a time when the LRRA was about to start the construction. But the matter was resolved on March 30, 2021 enabling us to start the work. But the LRRA cannot do so until the Punjab government allows, which is silent on the issue,” the official explained.

Talking to Dawn, Commissioner Capt retired Muhammad Usman said the construction of SL-3 was the need of the hour and it must be started immediately. “But I just assumed office and am unaware of the legal and other issues. The authority is also scheduled to give me a detailed briefing on the project on May 4 (Tuesday),” said Mr Usman, who is also the LRRA chairman under the law.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2021

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