ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: An Islamabad-based think tank has `sold out` a prime plot leased to it for educational purposes by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
The plot, on which now stands a two-storey plaza, was transferred to a private construction company, Dawn has learnt.
The property located in Jinnah Super and estimated to be worth over Rs1 billion was leased to the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on the directive of former military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq. The IPS initiated its research work during the 1980s.
According to documents made available to Dawn, Gen Zia in a letter to the CDA in September 1981 stated: “I have approved in principle that IPS, which is presently located at 56, 3rd Street, Shalimar, F-6/1, be given a plot of an appropriate size for the construction of a suitable building. They are interested in the size which is generally allotted to educational institutions, because they wish to improve upon the fine work that the institute is already doing and to extend its facilities. The plot would be given on payment of the normal charges for such allotments.”
A CDA official said: “As per rules of the authority, plots for educational institutions are leased out only in H sectors and the IPS was also initially offered a plot in the same series of sector – H-9. But on the directive of the then president, the institute was allotted the plot in F-7 Markaz.”
The official said plots even allotted to the private sector, like universities and schools, in H-9 sector were non-transferable and non-saleable.
A document of the federal government stated: “The CDA has decided to offer you a land measuring 1,155.55 square yards for the construction of a three-storey building (ground, first and second floor) for the IPS in F-7 Markaz. The land is being offered on a 33-year lease, extendable for two more terms.”
It added: “In addition to the premium, you will have to pay the annual rent at the rate of Re1 per square yard in the first week of every year.”
The intriguing factor, which highlights violation of the rules, is the way CDA approved the commercialisation of the plot.
A source added that it was because of the efforts of the then chairman of IPS, Prof Khurshid Ahmed, now a central leader of Jamaat-i-Islami and sitting senator, that the plot was transferred from H sector to the F-7 commercial area.
The IPS constructed a commercial tower on the plot which now houses several multinational brand shops at the ground floor with the two upper floors still vacant because of some issues relating to the CDA.
When contacted, Senator Khurshid Ahmed said: “Gen Zia had, no doubt, allotted us the plot for `educational purpose` but it was given to us on the market rate. It was never gifted to us. We have followed all the legal formalities of the civic authority before selling the commercial plaza.”
Prof Ahmed claimed that from 1990 onwards the IPS was stationed in this building and from day one they took approval from the CDA for commercialisation of the building.
He insisted that the plot was leased to them in the name of a trust and there was nothing wrong in it. “We have complete transparency related to our accounts and the current sale of the plaza.”
He said in 1979 their institute was housed in F-7/3 and later shifted to the tower at Jinnah Super.
After a board approval, the CDA allowed commercialisation of the basement and first floor of the building subject to the payment of the required fee, according to another letter.
In a stunning move on July 21, 2009, the CDA even agreed to the transfer of the leased plot to a private limited construction company. The estate management wing of the CDA informed the director-general of the IPS that their request for transfer of allotment of plot No. 19 in F-7 Markaz to M/S Union Construction was considered by the authority and it stood allotted to the private entity.
When the director-general of the IPS, Khalid Rehman, was contacted, he claimed: “The environment at F-7 commercial area was not fit for our research purposes and we felt the need to shift out and therefore sold the building.”
When reminded that the building was leased for educational purposes only, he said: “It was almost 30 years back when we were given the building for research purposes and now we are at a better location and doing our work professionally.”
However, the IPS`s new building has resorted to another non-conforming use of a building as it is now located in the posh residential sector of F-6/3.
“I don`t want to comment how much we got from the sale of the building; however, we have paid all the dues related to transfer and commercialisation of the plaza,” said Mr Rehman.
The CDA spokesman, Ramzan Sajid, said: “The laws are very much clear that lease plots or buildings cannot be transferred or sold nor sub-leased to any other party.”
Asked if he was aware of the IPS leased building, he remarked: “I have no knowledge of it.”