LAHORE – As many as four labourers died and 23 were injured during the demolition of a five-storey building in Johar Town on Friday. The building is being demolished by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) allegedly on a personal grudge of LDA Director General Abdul Jabbar Shaheen, Pakistan Today has learnt.
THE BUILDING CAVED IN: Around 40 labourers, unskilled for building demolition, were hired to bring down the building located in Board of Revenue Cooperative Housing Society Johar Town Sector E. Dozens were present in the building’s basement when the building caved in all of a sudden. As a result, four labourers, yet to be identified, crushed under the debris, while around 23 labourers were injured. The injured were rushed to the Jinnah Hospital.
It has happened for the first time in the LDA’s history that such a number of casualties took place during demolition work. None of the LDA staffers or officials was injured. However, the violent mob seized an LDA official, Azhar Muhammad, who was later rescued by the police.
The injured have been identified as Abdul Rehman, Munir, Fakhar, Sardar, Nadeem, Afzal, Azhar, Saeed, Khadim, Muhammad Yar, Yaseen, Muhammad Hussain, Ashraf, Ahmad Yaar, Naveed, Mushtaq, Yousaf, Muhammad Naeem, Qasim, Yameen, Muhammad Nadeem and Kashif.
LDA DG’S ‘GRUDGE’: Sources in LDA revealed that the LDA DG was offended on the complaint made by former Board of Revenue Cooperative Housing Society president Abdul Qadeer, during the Punjab CM’s meeting on dengue at 90, The Mall.
Society’s former president had complained that LDA had been dumping garbage at open plots near the housing society, facilitating a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Considering the complaint an insult, LDA DG ordered to demolish the building located in the society despite restraining orders issued by the Lahore High Court (LHC), sources said.
Following in ‘bitterness’ of the complaint made against LDA, the authority also had a case registered against the society’s former president’s son, Nasir Qadeer, who was elected as the new president of the society but could not assume charge, for his involvement in an eight-year-old matter, a senior LDA official told Pakistan Today.
According to sources, the LDA DG could not manage an appropriate plan to demolish the building, considered by LDA an illegally constructed building, and the authority did not seek the services of experts for the building’s demolition. Instead, LDA hired local unskilled labourers from the open market “in a haste” and launched the demolition on Thursday, blocking Allah Hu Chowk, said sources.
LABOURERS’ FAMILIES PROTEST: Meanwhile, a protest led by families of the deceased and residents of the society was held with fiery slogans against LDA DG Abdul Jabbar Shaheen for hiring unskilled labourers instead of seasoned firms for the demolition. They demanded the Punjab CM sack LDA DG.
‘IT WAS UNFORTUNATE’: According to a press release issued by LDA, the building which collapsed on Friday had been illegally built on a plot which was an open space according to the original scheme plan. The building was being commercially used and it was served vacation notice 14 days ago and a final notice two days ago, read the release. The building unfortunately collapsed because of its weak structure, the release said.
‘LDA DG WANTS THE SOCIETY’: The society’s former president Abdul Qadeer told Pakistan Today that the basic reason behind the action was that LDA wanted the society’s land to develop its own housing scheme, LDA Avenue I. He alleged that for the purpose, LDA had been using all “fair and unfair” means to get the land.
“We were offered the land for Rs 0.15 million per kanal but out offer was rejected,” he said, adding that the building being demolished was not illegally constructed as its map was approved by the town concerned. “Society has also stay orders by the LHC. However, LDA started demolition without serving vacation orders. If LDA claims to serve such orders, it must present receiving chits,” he added.
COMPENSATIONS: After the incident, Lahore DCO Ahad Cheema visited the site and ordered an action. Later, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced compensation of Rs 0.5 million each for the families of the deceased. The “severely wounded” would be paid Rs 0.1 million, whereas those with minor injuries would get Rs 50,000 each, according to the orders issued. The LDA DG distributed the compensation among the victims under treatment at Jinnah Hospital on Friday evening.
OFFICERS SUSPENDED, ENQUIRY COMMITTEE FORMED: Earlier, the LDA DG suspended four LDA officers: Buildings Director Malik Ahmad Nawaz, EME Director Abdur Razaq, Town Planning Deputy Director Azhar Ali and Town Planning Assistant Director Afraz Akhter. The DG also constituted an enquiry committee for finding the facts about the incident and directed the committee to furnish its report within 24 hours.
Convened by the LDA Headquarters (HQ) Additional DG Hafiz Ihsanul Haque, the committee comprises of WASA managing Director (MD) Dr Javed Iqbal, LDA Dir HQ DG Fawad Amir and LDA Administrations Director Khalid Pervaiz.
People held responsible would be duly prosecuted against after the report of the inquiry committee. The DG has set up a facilitation centre at Jinnah Hospital for ensuring proper treatment of the injured. He has also established a blood donation camp at LDA office Johar Town.
However, despite repeated attempts, LDA DG Abdul Jabbar Shaheen was not available to comment on the allegations levelled against him.