In an exclusive interview with Pakistan Today, DHA residents’ association president Rohail Ikram spills the beans on DHA Lahore’s ‘arrogance’ towards its residents
LAHORE – The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) administration considers itself more than a “colonial lord”, too much haughty, hateful, unfriendly, self-satisfied and completely unapproachable to residents, DHA Resident Association President Rohail Ikram spills the bean in an exclusive interview with Pakistan Today.
“You may get time from the president of Pakistan, visit his office and seek his help to address your grievances but it is unimaginable to have access to the godfathers of DHA,” Rohail said flanked by Secretary General Azam Nasir Chaudhry at his office in Regency Inn.
Being chairman of Regency Group and chief executive of MS Pharmaceutical Company, the Subway chain, Regency Inn, an oil exploration company and a four-star hotel in Canada, Rohail was elected president of DHA Resident Association for a second time in 2010 for two years.
The DHA administration, he said, had no concern with the suffering of residents, even had cornered the DHA Resident Association, legally empowered by bylaws to serve as a bridge between the administration and residents. “DHA, once a paradise for the residents, is now in a state of mess,” Rohail said.
“DHA residents have been treated badly for a long time now. The administration behaves like feudalists looking down upon their tenants in a rural belt. The situation is fanning hate and anger among the residents and if the DHA administration does not mend its ways, it will have far reaching repercussions.”
Giving an illustration of Canada, the US and Europe where resident associations relish congenial protocol and ties with seniors officials of housing societies, communities and cities, he said that mayors regarded office-bearers of resident associations as social agents who had deep penetration at grass-root level even in neglected areas. With their help, he said, they fathomed public’s daily problems and resolved them accordingly.
“This approach helps to provide immediate relief to people and results in image building of government. It is basically the beauty of democracy that helps strengthen the system,” Rohail said. The aggrieved president, however, said four years ago, the DHA administration and DHA Resident Association had good working relationship.
“In those days, people never encountered a problem in meeting with DHA officials. So open-hearted, cooperative and welcoming were the officials that they used to go out of the way to shoot people’s troubles in no time at all.”
Peeping into the past when he was first elected as DHA Resident Association president, Rohail shared his memories with Pakistan Today and said that Brig (r) Bashir and Brig (r) Fazal, in their terms of office as administrators, used to listen to the residents and remain at their disposal to deliver the best. In contract to the past, now problems keep lying unattended as doors of the DHA administration have been shut to the residents.
“We have submitted thrice a letter to meet DHA Administrator Brig Aslam Rana to let him know about residents’ hardships. But a response is still awaited,” he added. “If we are continued to be unheard, will knock the doors of the Lahore corps commander and go even higher to meet the chief of army staff to register our protest.” Spotlighting the issues unaddressed, he said that the law and order situation in DHA was fast deteriorating.
“Mobile and purse snatchings are rampant. Broad daylight robberies, mugging, car-jacking, sexual harassments and illegal commercialization are on the rise,” he added. Recently, the DHA administration recruited four security officials and other staff but they seldom petrol the roads and are seen only during VVIP movements.
“Residents pay Rs 500 for a two-kanal house, Rs. 400 for one-kanal house and Rs 300 for a 10-marla house for security of their localities. And in return, the DHA administration has recruited unskillful and non-professional wardens for watch and ward,” he added. About parking problems, he said that there were scanty parking spaces available in the upscale locality and most of them were miserably ill-planned and mismanaged.
Parking lots in Phase I in G and H sectors have been encroached upon by cars belonging to the rent-e-car business. Meanwhile the basement in Jamiya Masjid Allah-hu-Akbar was designed for parking but it was opened only during Jumma prayers. “If it is used on a daily basis, the parking issue in Phase I could be resolved,” he added. He recommended constructing parking plazas in all phases to get rid of the problem.
He said the customers are badly handled at restaurants in Phase I in Food Street. “Order boys throng and besiege the customers’ vehicles in a race to pick the order. In a run for order, there is a scene of stampede and women customers feel harassed and embarrassed. The DHA administration has been asked repeatedly to address the issue but to no avail,” he lamented.
Talking about power outages, he said that a number of residential units in the Phase I commercial area suffered long electricity closures and but the DHA administration has turned a blind eye on the issue. “There is another issue of a voltage drop but nobody is listening to the hue and cry of residents,” the DHA Resident Association president pointed out.
Regarding the education issue, he said that the standard of education in around eight educational institutions run by the DHA administration was on fast decline. “One of the main reasons is the mushroom growth of tuition centers mostly run by Defence school teachers despite a ban and the DHA administration has never bothered to take notice of the issue,” he said. “As a result residents have started withdrawing their children and getting them enrolled in private schools in and outside the DHA.”
“Usually residents have the admission quota in private educational institutions in a housing society but the DHA administration has not secured such a facility for the residents who are being forced to pay through the nose for their children’s education,” he added.
On illegal commercialization, Rohail said people had established private offices, tuition centers, recording centers, studios, and schools in residential areas with the connivance of DHA officials.