Mon December 11, 2017
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

National

Rahimullah Yusufzai
December 28, 2016

Share

Advertisement

Residents struggle to stop commercialisation of Peshawar’s University Town

Residents struggle to stop commercialisation of Peshawar’s University Town

Legal battle in decisive stage as govt,
court wait for committee’s report

PESHAWAR: Representatives of University Town residents have been trying to make themselves heard as they struggle to prevent their once posh residential locality from getting further commercialised.

The University Town Residents Association has approached lawmakers and nazims, government officials, the media and even the courts to highlight the residents’ plight due to the steady commercialization of their streets and roads.

Their hands were strengthened by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) judgement that banned commercial activities in the University Town, but their biggest concern is the unwillingness of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government and inability of the Town-III administration to implement this order. The University Town was launched in the late 1950s on land bought from the Spina Waray and Abdarra villagers. The land was allotted to government employees to build houses and gradually the town’s population increased as civilians too acquired property that was reasonably priced due to its location at some distance from the city centre.

The plot-owners had to pay special charges to develop the town. It had its own administration that ran the town's affairs fairly well. According to residents, their misfortune began when the University Town under the politicised local government system was handed over to the Town-III administration.

The town presently has around 1,400 houses. The residents association has prepared a list of 177 commercial units operating in the town, but it is by no means complete as the number seems to be higher.

The bungalows in the town are being used for a number of non-residential activities ranging from government offices to educational institutions, clinics and hospitals, the UN and other international organisations, diplomatic mission and offices, guesthouses, restaurants and beauty parlours.

A road has been blocked to protect the Iranian Consulate. Earlier other roads were blocked for the protection of Americans and other foreigners living in the town. The schools, colleges and universities with thousands of students, teachers and other employees are by far the biggest issue for the residents. They claimed more than 80 percent students didn't belong to the University Town. Traffic jams are common as a large number of vehicles pick and drop the students and teachers. "The road where I live is so full of vehicles that sometimes my doorway is blocked. Driving my car into and out of my house is a challenge and I am worried what will happen in case of an emergency," observed Yousaf Ghaffar, the president of the association. During a recent meeting, he and other residents narrated a host of problems facing them due to the commercial activities being carried out in University Town. The association's general secretary Ayesha Bano, Muqeem Khilji, Dr Sadia Shafique and Shakeel Ahmad narrated their woes and wondered why the court's order isn't being implemented. Other office-bearers and activists of the association including Maimoona Noor, Haroon Zafar, Dr Khushnood Ali Baz, Ms Neelofar, Kamal Jehangir and Omar Akram have also been highlighting their problems in the media or approaching the courts to seek justice. According to the residents, the presence of diplomatic missions and international organizations increased the security risks in the town where four major acts of terrorism targetting the Americans, Iranians and other foreigners have taken place. "What happened to the plan to set up a diplomatic enclave in Peshawar so that all the foreign missions and UN offices are shifted from residential areas to a secure place?" questioned Yousaf Ghaffar. The residents complained about water and electricity shortages and low gas pressure as a result of the rise in consumption due to commercial activities in the town. They were unhappy about the lack of cleanliness in the once clean and green University Town. They claimed plazas were built in the town without getting approval from the concerned departments. In fact, the court recently had to stop construction of a plaza being built in violation of its order. Ayesha Bano, who is also a councillor of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Town-III, criticized the educational institutions for organizing students' protests to foil implementation of the ban imposed by the PHC on commercial activities in the town. "Did they seek the parents' permission when bringing out the students from schools to stage protests on the roads? Is it ethical to do so?" she asked. Dr Sadia added that the government appeared to be surrendering to the commercial lobby and breaking the fabric of the society as this will set a wrong precedent and pave the way for other residential towns to be commercialized. The residents alleged certain people in the government with vested interest had a hand in such protests. They pointed out that all commercial establishments in the federal capital, Islamabad, and in Hayatabad, a posh locality located on the edge of the boundary between Peshawar district and Khyber Agency had been closed down. They asked the government to upgrade and commercialize localities such as Danishabad sited close to University Town instead of further commercializing their town apparently to raise funds for the reportedly cash-strapped provincial exchequer. The residents have put faith in PHC judges Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Khan who have been hearing cases concerning the rampant commercial activities in University Town and the contempt of court petitions regarding non-compliance of their order. All verdicts to-date have gone in the residents' favour and the Supreme Court too upheld the PHC judgement. Their lawyer Qazi Jawad Ihsanullah has spiritedly fought their case. The administration of University Town has tried to implement the court's order by sealing educational institutions and closing down other commercial activities, though most were later de-sealed. The Town-III Nazim Arbab Mohammad Ali has backed the residents even though he belongs to the ruling PTI which doesn't seem keen to implement the court order. All concerned are now waiting for January 18, 2017 when the provincial government would present to the PHC a plan prepared by the special parliamentary committee to make recommendations for resolving the issue of commercial activities in the University Town. This undertaking was given to the court by KP's Advocate General Abdul Latif Yousafzai during the hearing of contempt of court case. He said it would be up to the court to accept or reject this plan. The court has made it clear it wanted implementation of its order banning commercial activities in the town. The residents are concerned the government wanted to find a way to circumvent the court verdict by going for legislation to exempt certain roads in the University Town from the law. Some of the residents argued they would make a huge profit if the University Town was officially commercialized as prices of their property would substantially go up. "But we don't want to make money by selling our property. I am an old resident and have memories attached to my house," remarked Yousaf Ghaffar.

 

 

Advertisement

Comments

Advertisement

Topstory

Opinion

Newspost

Editorial

National

World

Sports

Business

Karachi

Lahore

Islamabad

Peshawar

Advertisement