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Remove all offices from Islamabad residential areas, SC orders

Remove all offices from Islamabad residential areas, SC orders

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday sent a loud and clear message to all and sundry that the law as well as the order of the court regarding non-conforming use of residential houses in Islamabad should be implemented without any exception.

“This is what the command of the Constitution is and this is what the apex court of the country desires and decree,” ordered a two-judge bench, consisting of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Faisal Arab.

The bench was hearing a case relating to the use of residential houses for commercial purposes as well as encroachments and road blocks created by the government offices, private residences as well as some embassies located in the residential sectors of Islamabad in the name of security.

The order also required different political parties, including PPP, JI, PTI, PML-N and PML-Q, to shift their offices from the residential sectors.

It also expressed concern over the resistance being shown by the inspector general of police (IGP) Islamabad to remove his office from the residential area. The court was informed that the IGP had told the Capital Development Authority (CDA) that its office had been functioning at the present vicinity since 1974.

Senior counsel Shahid Hamid, who was representing the CDA, also regretted that the IGP motorway had even not bothered to reply to CDA’s notice of removing the office.

“They (two IGPs) are looking around excuses and pretexts to defy the law and the order of the apex court, as a result, the CDA is facing problem,” Justice Khan regretted but directed the authority to ensure compliance of the court order across the board and that embassies should also not be an exception to it.

“If the IG violates the law, he will be proceeded against, we will see to it,” observed Justice Khan.

Mr Hamid told the court that though the offices of JI, PTI and PML-Q had been sealed, APML and the PML-N had voluntarily removed their offices. But the PPP secretariat at G-6 could not be sealed due to resistance put up by its occupants. An application for the lodging an FIR has been submitted to the SHO Aabpara, the counsel said, adding notices had also been issued to the PPP office at sector F-8/2 called Zardari House.

In all, 28 places, including the offices of political parties, have been sealed since Dec 26 whereas at least 140 business outlets have voluntarily shifted to other places.

Advocate Sardar Latif Khosa told the court that the PPP had been running its secretariat for decades and even late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto used to run the affairs of the party from the same vicinity. Since the PPP was facing threat of terrorism, it cannot open its office at a public place or an open market, he added.

“It means you have been challenging the law since decades,” the court observed, adding the office was illegal under the CDA rules and should be removed. But Mr Khosa argued that illegality should not be attributed to the PPP since the party and Mr Bhutto gave the country the constitution.

Mr Hamid informed the court that the Narcotics Control Board, NAB and Nadra offices had sought time from the CDA to shift their offices from the residential offices, adding the CDA had planned to remove 50 to 60 non-conforming uses next month. But the Islamabad High Court had granted stay to 352 properties being used as schools on petitions by the Private Schools Association.

The court, however, ordered the CDA to proceed against all those schools which did not have any stay order issued by the high court and expected that the high court would dispose of the pending cases expediously.

Dr Aslam Khaki, appearing on behalf of certain citizens, said beauty parlours and montessoris or daycare schools should be allowed to run in the residential areas for the benefit of the residents.

The case will be taken up after two weeks.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2016

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