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Nust, CDA square off over land use

ISLAMABAD, July 24: As the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) is toying with commercial plans, including a hotel on its premises, to generate funds, the city managers are cautioning it against violating land use rules.

The university has set aside a portion of land on its 704-acre premises for commercial activities to generate its own funds.

But according to a senior Capital Development Authority (CDA) official, Nust was a “public sector educational setup” and its land could not be used for commercial purposes.

“The civic authority cannot allow any activity that violates regulations of land use,” the official, who insisted on anonymity, said.

He added that already the land was provided to the university at acquisition rates of Rs90 per square yard, which was way less than the amenity rates of Rs2,250 per square yard – an amount that CDA should have charged back then. He said amenity rates were usually applied between government to government transactions but an exception was made in the case of Nust.

But an official of Nust administration, requesting anonymity, maintained that universities worldwide are planning commercial activities to generate funds on their own.

“Worldwide educational institutions generate their own income to meet expenses and that includes commercial activities. We also want to lessen the pressures on the government, which provides funds to Nust.”

About building a hotel on the university’s premises, he said it’s just an idea that has been “floated” to make Nust self sufficient and lessen its dependence on the government for funding.

In a letter to Nust’s rector on January 13, 2007, Dr Attaur Rahman, former chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), had said the university was permitted to explore possibilities of carrying out feasibility study and come forward with a “professionally prepared proposal/business plan for construction of commercial buildings etc”.

Available with Dawn, the letter signed by Attaur Rahman had said the HEC would be willing to consider providing funds to meet development costs of such a project.

The letter said, “Universities with large tracts of excess land to endeavour maximising returns on their assets through commercial activities, which in turn could be diverted to supplement income and utilised for educational purposes.”According to its administration, Nust was well within its rights to carry out commercial activities even if it came to building a hotel to generate extra income.

“There are no illegalities attached to this project. Nust has only floated the idea. It could be any commercial activity that can fetch us more income. We have spare land for such ventures,” the university’s official said.

Moreover for the last three years, the CDA had been unsuccessfully trying to get Nust surrender over 130 acres running parallel to the Kashmir Highway earmarked as green zone.

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