Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has fast become Lahore’s premier real estate developer, with several ambitious projects under construction and the completed ones catering to the city’s richest residents.
It commands few of the highest plot rates in the city and covers a total area that is comparable to medium sized town in the countryside.
While it’s economic achievements and organization is impressive, it’s authority to make such commercial ventures has come under question.
The association with the armed forces contributes a great deal to its selling points, yet most people stop short of asking the next logical question: Should the armed forces be involved in commercial real estate ventures?
The Supreme Court on Friday has decided to probe this matter, which it has termed the “biggest constitutional issue”, it has decided to take suo motto action.
DHA was supposed to provide housing to the families of soldiers who’ve lost life in combat, and while the consul in the initial hearing maintained that 90 percent of the land is allotted to the military and only 10 percent to civilians, the fact is dubious at best.
The land in its ventures is readily available for sale to civilians, and a quick look around the society would reveal richer, more affluent residents than struggling families of martyred soldiers.
Furthermore, DHA’s ownership of what was previously EME society near Thokar Niaz Beg in Lahore and its purchase of land in Islamabad reserved for the lake adjoining the proposed Dadhocha dam – the act that bought the issue in light of the judiciary – easily lends credence to its purely commercial nature.
While the Supreme Court’s proactive measures towards resolving such matters is commendable, its ability to resolve them remains a separate matter.
The court has been unable to hold its own in recent matters involving the men in boots, and the proceedings reveal that DHA’s evolution into a real estate big shot came about through legislation passed quietly by the Federal government in 1999 and later in 2002.
While the Federal government’s role will be questioned, the Supreme Court seems to be arrayed against precedence in the overall issue.
The military is already involved in other semi-commercial ventures in manufacturing and consumer products, and if the government decides to stick with its past ordinances, it is hard to see the court making headway.
At the end of the day, the truth is that no one would have objected to DHA’s growth – it is a well-managed and peaceful residential society – but its policies of land acquisition seem plainly unethical.
If it had practiced restraint, DHA could have gone on to build its projects in peace.
Source: The Nation