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LDA locks horns with real estate group Bahria Town

LAHORE, Feb 22: The ongoing tussle between the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and a known real estate business group on the issue of the approval of three extended sectors in its town on Link Canal Road (near Mohlanwal) seems to have intensified after completion of Bilawal House there.

Both LDA and Bahria Town have launched an advertisement campaign through the print media, levelling allegations against each other. The LDA has also displayed banners against the group at various city spots, requesting people to avoid buying plots in sectors D, E and F of Bahria Town Lahore near Mohlanwal (Multan Road) and Bahria Safari Town (Bahria Orchard) on Raiwind Road for being developed without approval of any competent authority.

The Bahria Town administration claims to have its sector A, B and C approved by the Allama Iqbal Town Municipal Administration. Through advertisements, it also declares its sectors D and E completely developed projects for which it claims to have submitted applications to the respective TMA (Iqbal Town). It, however, declares its sector-F project under planning process.

Although the LDA claims to have informed the public at large about several illegally developed housing schemes including the Bahria Town Lahore from time to time, the campaign has been intensified after President Zardari formally visited and stayed at the Bilawal House this month.

PPP leaders say that since completion of the Bilawal House and president’s visit and stay there, the PML-N led Punjab government is targeting the group unnecessarily. “We are surprised why the LDA didn’t take action against Bahria Town in the past. Why they are taking such an action now,” PPP leader Shaukat Basra said while talking to Dawn.

He said it was typical of the Sharifs to not tolerate others at their turf. They always targeted people as they lacked courage to face their rivals. The LDA administration rejects the perception, stating that the move had been launched equally against all those illegally developing, marketing and selling residential and commercial plots.

“We act against all those developing schemes and selling plots in violation of the rules and regulations,” LDA Director-General Ahad Khan Cheema told Dawn. He said the LDA had neither taken action against Bahria Town at the behest of any political party nor was it planning to defame any particular business group or individual.

He said the Bahria Town administration itself stated in its advertisement that it had only submitted application for getting approval from the TMA about developing sector D and E and declared its sector F under planning process. “The group’s act of marketing and selling plots to people without taking approval from anyone is absolutely illegal,” he said.

He said similarly the organisation’s efforts of marketing and selling plots in Bahria Orchard was also an illegal act as the group’s administration didn’t get approval from any competent authority. He quoted section 18 (2) of the Private Housing Scheme and Land Subdivision Rules-2010 according to which the sale of such plots in any schemes were prohibited until grant of the final approval from the authorities concerned.

“So, it is our duty to inform the people so that are not misguided while making investments in residential schemes,” he said.

Asked whether the LDA would stop construction work on the projects, Mr Cheema said: “We have currently no plan to take such an action.”

An official, while talking to this reporter, quoted a recent notification of the City District Government of Lahore that bans development of any sort of residential scheme at various roads/spots of the city including the west part of Raiwind Road.

“Apparently the west part of Raiwind Road goes up to Raiwind city. And this is the road where the PML-N top leaders reside. So, the action indicates that the leaders do not want to see development of any more residential schemes around,” the official explained.

DCO Noorul Amin Mengal said the ban on development of residential schemes at west Raiwind Road or other four places was not only to avoid mushroom growth of residential schemes but also to promote sowing of crops on agriculture land. “Owing to utilisation of agricultural land for commercial purposes (such as development of residential schemes) in the city district, people are forced to buy fruits and vegetables at much higher rates compared to other districts. That is why we decided to stop development of residential schemes on agricultural land. It will also save our green areas,” Mr Mengal explained.

He claimed that the west part of Raiwnd Road didn’t fall in the areas around Jati Umrah. He said everyone could witness a majority of city’s newly-developed housing schemes on Raiwind Road.

A Bahria Town spokesperson, Ms Nida initially said she would try to send documents regarding approval of sectors A, B and C by the TMA but later did not attend calls by this reporter.

According to documents obtained by Dawn from other sources, the Bahria Town got approval for its sectors A and B on July 30 and Aug 6, 2001 respectively from Zila Council, Lahore.

But there was no record about approval of the sector C. As for sectors D and E, the group claims it has submitted applications to the TMA. However, it has yet to submit any application for getting approval of sector F.

Town Municipal Officer Saleem Khan didn’t attend the calls when this reporter tried to seek the TMA version.

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