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‘CDA approved new US embassy building in 2012’

‘CDA approved new US embassy building in 2012’

ISLAMABAD: The state minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) on Wednesday said that the eight-storey US Embassy building in the Diplomatic Enclave was being constructed with the approval of the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

Responding to a calling attention notice moved by Senator Hafiz Hamdullah in the Senate, Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry said that CDA had approved the building plan of the US Embassy, adding that no such construction was done without approval.

The minister said that CDA had not only approved ground plus seven storeys for the embassy building, but had also extended similar approval for the Bangladesh embassy building as well.

Tariq Fazal Chaudhry says issue of PM’s permission was raised after civic agency approved building plan

Senator Hamdullah had moved a calling attention notice following the recent report by the auditor general of Pakistan (AGP), which had pointed out that construction work was started on the US embassy building without the prime minister’s approval, and that the civic agency failed to stop it.

The audit report also cited a letter from a security agency dated 2012, which pointed out that the rooftop of the eight-storey building could be utilized for installing surveillance devices to monitor government offices.

However, the CADD minister told the house that Foreign Office and intelligence agencies had been consulted over the issue and they said there were no signs of spy equipment being installed on the building.

“In the modern era, there is no need to install spy equipment on the rooftops, since everything can be watched live using applications such as Google Maps,” the minister remarked.

Speaking to Dawn, after the session, the minister said that he held a detailed meeting with CDA to get to the bottom of the issue.

He said the civic agency told him in writing that they gave approval to the US Embassy for a ground plus seven storeys building in 2012.

He said that after giving permission, later on CDA started talking about getting permission from the prime minister. “They gave permission as they were the competent authority, the and US embassy deposited the building plan fee in its account,” the minister said.

He said that a CDA team was continuously monitoring construction and recently visited the embassy as well, and found no construction contrary to the approved plans.

“We can debate the issue, as there was no need to give the US embassy approval to build such a huge compound. We should have taken permission from the prime minister, but it’s true that we approved the building plan,” said an official of CDA’s building control department, who requested not to be named.

Earlier, on the floor of the Senate, Senator Hamdullah pointed out that the audit had raised the issue of the prime minister’s permission, whereas $85 million dollars had been spent on the construction.

The audit report 2016-17 pointed out that CDA, in June 2012, decided to increase the floor area ratio by 1:2:4 and decided that the number of storeys in the diplomatic area would be ground plus seven.

However, before the implementation of a decision, the case would be forwarded to Cabinet Division to seek the prime minister’s approval. The board also decided to hold on to the NOC for the US embassy pending a final decision by the prime minister.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2017

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