Commercialisation: Beaconhouse not paying municipal fees

LAHORE: The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has not charged the Beaconhouse School System commercialisation fees for at least 10 branches built in residential areas in the city, a ‘favour’ worth millions of rupees, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The Beaconhouse School System claims to be “possibly the largest private school system of its kind in the world”, currently educating close to 200,000 students. It is owned by the influential Kasuri family, which includes former foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri. It has around 30 campuses in Lahore, most built in residential areas.

According to the Land Use Rules of 2009, a commercial concern that wishes to use a residential, industrial, peri-urban or intercity service area for commerce must pay a conversion fee equivalent to 20 per cent of the value of the commercial land or 20 per cent of the average sale price during the preceding 12 months of commercial land in the vicinity. It must then pay an annual commercialisation fee. All schools, beauty parlours, boutiques and clubs established in residential areas are liable to pay annual commercialisation fees.

But the Beaconhouse School System opened 10 branches in residential areas, mostly in Gulberg, without paying conversion fees or annual commercial fees. One school each was opened in 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 and five in 2007.

“It’s cost the LDA millions of rupees in revenue,” said an LDA official on condition of anonymity. “Some senior officials of the LDA are being offered high rebates in their children’s education,” he added.

At the campuses in residential areas, school buildings were constructed and alterations and improvements were made. Planning permission was not gained from the authority for these constructions and renovations.
Under the rules, the conversion of land use without permission or payment of fees is illegal and the LDA can seal the property or fine the owner.

An official concerned asking not to be named said an exercise was in process to enforce the commercialisation policy in letter and spirit. He admitted that Beaconhouse appeared to have received favours, “either due to the ulterior motives of some officials or pressure from influential persons. Normally challans are issued for such violations because officials are keen to show that they are performing.”

Tabriz Bokhari, head of media and marketing at Beaconhouse, said: “Not to my knowledge. I am sure we paid commercialisation fees.”

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