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In Lahore, law emerges higher than the high-rises – by Qudrat Ullah

Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif of Punjab is an unpredictable man with great vigor and a substantiated strength of innovative potentials; especially when the issue of merit and rule of law surfaces, he forgives no body. During his first tenure and Punjab Chief Ministership, he didn’t let off even his maternal uncle whose encroached commercial property at Lahore’s famous Beadon Road was demolished by the LDA. This was a strong message to all high and mighty that now onwards no one will be above the law.

After coming to power for the second time, Shahbaz Sharif has tried to keep up his reputation of a hard task master. But now he has certain limitations for being a partner of yesterday’s political foe, PPP in Punjab. Despite that, he has kept his reputation and when the issues of illegal high-rises surfaced, he decided to prove his mettle and ordered the LDA and the city government to go ahead. Consequently, Lahorites are witnessing a unique operation, carried out by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in the provincial metropolis, against the illegally constructed high-rises.

It is launched against the most powerful of the society- the high-rise builders who have built multi-storey plazas in different commercial areas of the city and then sold them out to the unaware buyers without fulfilling even building byelaws’ requirements or caring for the structural fine-tuning, by greasing the palms of the corrupt elements in the LDA. But the storey does not end here; building a high-rise in Lahore or anywhere else is not an easy issue, you have to go to a little about dozen departments for various services and every department tries to ‘seize the moment’ with their objections and looming threats of action for some trivial deviations.

However, what is more alarming is the nagging collusion of entrenched land builders with the political clique of past regime; as both were united in their spiteful looting spree in Lahore. In fact, the ‘Chaudhris of Gujrat’ led PML(Q) was especially favorable to such builders as former Chief Minister Ch. Pervaiz Elahi flouted every rule and policy to please the ribald elements enjoined with him for their petty gains. In this process, he even granted permissions to construct plazas in grave violation of law and no construction standard was ever maintained by the affluent builders having suitable political connections in the power corridors. This resulted in roads congestion and discoloring of the city skyline; and Lahore started to appear as a baneful shanty town full with traffic jams and having no place for parking. The plazas were also built without any measure for public safety or fire fighting system.

Not contending with this, no attention was ever paid by such builders to the provision of public utilities in these plazas; nor such basic needs as parking space and mosque were met and the licentious owners of illegal plazas, in their lust for more money, also constructed shops on the space reserved for Mosques.

What is more distressing is that the builders’ mafia not only ruined the future prospects of this multi billion dollar industry in Pakistan but also put the lives of hundreds of shopkeepers and visitors who could succumb to any eventuality like that of Oct. 8 2005 earthquake. Had this sector been developed on modern lines along with ensuring the structural amplifications, the results would have been different today.

However, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, taking a suo-moto notice of the situation, constituted a 3-member commission under Justice Riaz Kiyani in 2007 to look into the matter and give suitable recommendations to improve the past mistakes.

In the light of the commission’s report and the directions of the apex court of Pakistan, the Punjab government gave green signal to Lahore city district government and the LDA to start legal action against the imprecise high-rises built in blatant violation of law. The LDA has identified as many as 400 buildings of various categories in its controlled area in the metropolis for action and demolition drive is already underway. Meanwhile, LDA has suspended 24 officials, including the chief metropolitan planner, the town planning director, and the former chief town planner for their alleged involvement in allowing illegal construction of high-rises in the city. The authority has also initiated departmental action against suspended officials under Punjab Employees Efficiency and Discipline Act, 2006. On the other hand, Punjab Chief Minister has also announced that the staff of LDA and City District Government, involved in the construction of illegal high-rises, will be awarded deterrent punishment so that in future no powerful could dare to violate law.

For the demolition of illegal high-rises, Lahore Development Authority has engaged 20 private firms, accelerating its ongoing drive against illegally constructed plazas as well as for removing alterations made in such premises in violation of the approved building plans. A labour force of more than 300 employees has been carrying out round-the-clock demolition campaign launched by the LDA since December 6, last year.

National media and the civil society have welcomed the action against the high and mighty builders but it is surprising that hue and cry is being raised on the demolition of illegal plazas by Q League, Imran Khan and by some political pundits who wants to cash in on the situation. But it would have been much better if those who are involved in propaganda against the operation against illegal high-rises raise their voice for the poor victims.

It is encouraging that the Shahbaz Sharif has announced that the interests of widows, orphans and middle class shop keepers, duped into purchasing shops in these plazas and have been kept in the dark about their illegal status, will be fully safeguarded. He maintained that those who are earning their livelihood from such shops will be protected against financial losses. Shahbaz Sharif has again set a leadership benchmark that daunts the political class as a whole. His governance style has taken the entrenched mafias and vested interests by huge shock.

It is encouraging that Punjab government is ensuring even action against plaza mafia. This is a strong message to the powerful builders in the country that no one is above the law and their D-Day can come any day. But, it is only possible in a democratic set up that gubernatorial affluent taste the power of the law. And this drive has realized that the law reigns higher than the high-rises in Lahore.

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QudratUllah
Lahore Cantt., Pakistan

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Abdul Nishapuri

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  • its clear case of victimization , shahbaz sharif son in law plaza which is the highest building on MM Alam road was also included in the list of illegal structure building . but judicary deleted his plaza’s name in their verdict.

    and most amusing thing is as soon as Plaza owner’s association succeeded in service of Aitizaz Ahsan as attorney , LHC has ordered LDA to halted their operation .

  • Where is Mr Merit (Mr Khadim-e-Ala) of Lahore Sharif?

    ‘Sanaullah’s plaza escapes drive against high-rises’

    * Report claims Punjab law minister concealed facts from High-Rising Building Commission

    Daily Times Monitor

    LAHORE: Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has managed to exempt a three-storey residential building owned by him – which is being used for commercial purposes – from the Punjab chief minister’s campaign against high-rise buildings and commercial plazas in the city, reported a private TV channel on Sunday.

    In an investigative report, the channel said Sanaullah was operating his office out of a residential building – located on 5 Fane Road, Lahore – which was being used for commercial purposes and violated recommendations by the High-Rising Building Commission (HRBC).

    The channel said Sanaullah “concealed facts about his building from the HRBC” to save it from being razed.

    The report said the building has three storeys and a basement, and is registered under the names of Rana Sanaullah, son of Sher Muhammad, and his wife Nabila Sanaullah. The construction map of the plot was approved on March 21, 2000, for residential purposes in line with orders by the chief corporation officer.

    The approval letter was signed on March 3, 2000, but point 3 of the letter states that the letter was approved on March 14, 2000 on orders by the chief corporation officer – revealing that the letter was issued to Sanaullah 11 days before it was signed by the chief corporation officer.

    Point 4 of the letter states that the owner of the plot would pay the verification fee, if due, after audit – another violation by Sanaullah, as the rules and regulations demand that all fees be paid immediately after the approval of all construction maps or before any verification.

    The channel also highlighted several other points of the letter that violate the law.
    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\25\story_25-1-2010_pg1_6

  • Of ethics and hypocrisy

    In the land of the ‘pure’, hypocrisy reigns supreme. A glaring example of this is Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan’s recent and not-so-recent antics. The law minister was able to get his own high-rise plaza exempted from scrutiny. Not only did he get illegal paper-work done to show his three-storey building as a two-storey building, he also papered over the fact that the building was being used for commercial purposes and was not a residential building as he had claimed in the official documents. Not only is Mr Sanaullah Khan a member of the ruling party in Punjab, the PML-N, he is also the provincial law minister. If the law minister himself is breaking the law, how can the government of Punjab have the moral authority to ask the citizens to follow the rule of law?

    With the Punjab chief minister’s drive against ‘illegal buildings’ and the Punjab government on a rampage against high-rise commercial plazas, the omission of Mr Sanaullah’s own property is a grim reminder of the double standards of the powers that be. Many in the PML-N, including the Punjab law minister, have been asking for the resignations of NRO beneficiaries in the federal government despite the fact that no charges have been proved as yet. Is a person not innocent until proven guilty? On the one hand, the PML-N demands resignations of the PPP ministers and on the other hand, one of its own ministers has a prima facie charge against him of manipulating the system. The PML-N should immediately sack the law minister from his post and tear down his illegal plaza. If this is not done, then the Punjab chief minister will not only be complicit in this crime but the ‘Khaadim-e-Aala’ will also lose the trust of the people.

    On another note, this is not the first incident of Rana Sanaullah’s law-breaking spree. Just a few days ago when President Zardari was on a visit to Faisalabad, the motorway had been closed for the president’s security. Given the grave terrorist threat, considerable security measures were necessary during his visit to Punjab, barricading the motorway to other travellers until his motorcade had passed Faisalabad being one of them. The Punjab law minister thought nothing of breaching presidential security and broke the barricades in a show of bravado. He also boasted about this ‘heroic’ act on various television channels. Such is the sorry tale of our so-called law minister, who should change his portfolio to Punjab’s ‘law-breaking’ ministry as this attitude of highhandedness and utter disregard for the law does not befit a law minister.

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\26\story_26-1-2010_pg3_1

    Lawmakers slam ‘above the law’ Rana Sanaullah

    * Furore after PA speaker asks opposition members not to discuss law minister’s plaza

    By Rana Kashif

    LAHORE: Lawmakers attending the Punjab Assembly’s ongoing session on Monday criticised the Punjab law minister following reports in newspapers that he managed to save his illegal plaza from being demolished by authorities.

    At a point of order during the assembly session, member of the opposition Samina Khawar Hayat said it was “ridiculous” that the law minister, whose responsibility was to strictly abide by the law, had himself violated the rules.

    She said a building belonging to Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was constructed in violation of the rules, but Speaker Rana Iqbal Khan ordered Hayat not to speak on the matter.

    Conflict: Upon this some members, including female members Amna Ulfat and Simal Kamran, protested against the speaker’s orders, saying the order proved that the law minister was exempted from operating under the country’s laws.

    The members said the Punjab law minister should also be apprehended like owners of other illegal buildings. Meanwhile, the law minister passed some remarks against the protesting female assembly members, leading to a protest, but the assembly’s speaker intervened to settle the dispute.

    Also, a number of female assembly members from the opposition demanded the government act against the Punjab chief secretary (CS) regarding an incident where a retired army officer was killed after he got hit by the CS’ car.

    PML-Q member Simal Kamran said the Punjab CS should be held responsible for the incident, as the CS’ driver, who has been charged with the murder, was only adhering to the official’s orders.

    She said the responsibility fell on the CS who was present in the vehicle at the time of the incident and who did not ask the driver to drive slower. But MPA Sheikh Allaudin said the CS had acted responsibly by handing over his driver to the authorities.

    The Punjab law minister also backed Sheikh’s statement, adding that the driver had been charged in an FIR already.

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\26\story_26-1-2010_pg13_1

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