Saturday July 20, 2024

CDA does it finally!

By Mobarik A Virk
April 07, 2017


What I saw going on in Aabpara market Wednesday morning was absolutely unbelievable! Heavy machinery and large contingents of men from the Capital Development Authority or were they from the Municipal Corporation Islamabad (MCI), were busy demolishing the encroachments. Indiscriminately it appeared.

Even more surprising was that there appeared to be no or very little resistance to this anti-encroachments operation. In the earlier such operations, launched a number of times over the years, the CDA was always thwarted by the traders and 'encroachers'. Many a times the CDA officials were badly beaten up too before they retreated. Or ran away!

Such incidents always led to filing of cases against each other in the Aabpara Police station. And those FIR’s were always withdrawn with mutual agreement following series of meetings between the CDA officials and the traders’ associations.

I must concede that I felt happy to see this operation going on so ruthlessly. But at the same time I felt a pang of guilt because at least a thousand poor people and their families must have been very badly hurt economically! I have all the sympathies for them. But at the same time hundreds of thousands of citizens, men, women and children would be feeling a great relief at the same time because of removal of these encroachments.

I started pointing out this menace, which caused extreme inconvenience to the citizens, especially the women and children, because these 'encroachers' had completely blocked the verandahs all over the market. The situation always was painful during sweltering summer or whenever it rained. And it used to rain much more frequently in Islamabad back in ‘80s and ‘90s.

Since 1991, when I started covering the CDA as a ‘Reporter’, I always asked every Chairman of the Authority that he would prove to be a real Chairman if he would be able to eliminate these encroachments from Aabpara market to start with!

Be that Faridud Din Ahmed, Saeed Mehdi, Shafi Sehwani, Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, M. Javed Masood, Ch. Qamar Zaman, Khalid Saeed, Mir Laiq Shah, Abdur Rauf Chaudhry, Kamran Lashari, Tariq Mahmood Khan, Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, Engr Farkhand Iqbal or Syed Tahir Shahbaz, none could take up the challenge to accomplish the task!

Faridud Din Ahmed tried to resolve the issue when he increased the number of stalls in the weekly ‘Itwar bazaar’ at Peshawar Morr and also in the G-6. He also increased the number of days for these bazaars to operate from one to three, Sundays Tuesdays and Fridays besides starting two more weekly bazaars in sector I-9 and G-10.

The initiative was taken to offer the maximum number of these 'encroachers' and squatters in the city markets and shopping centres to shift their businesses to those weekly bazaars. However, it worked the other way round. If not all of them, at least an overwhelming majority of these 'encroachers'/squatters, who were allotted stalls in these weekly bazaars, rented those out and continued with their encroachments in the city bazaars and markets as well!

And look who has accomplished this impossible task! The elected Mayor of Islamabad, who also happen to be the chairman of the CDA. Earlier these twin portfolios were kept by two former Chairmen. Faridud Din Ahmed and Saeed Mehdi and they used the title as well.

I would definitely like to know as to how Sheikh Anser Aziz managed to take up this challenge so successfully! But the fact is that this is not the end but just the beginning of the anti-encroachment operations from the civic limits falling under the control of the CDA. The next targets should be Peshawar Morr market and the Karachi Company (G-9 Markaz).

Well, it would indeed be mean of me if I may not mention another accomplishment of the present administration of the CDA. They launched the campaign against non-conforming use of residential building. The CDA may not have achieved the 100 per cent or probably even 50 per cent of the target, but at least one can see the impact as many a offices and other commercial concerns, which were operating from the residential buildings, have been closed and shifted to commercial plazas.

Anyway, this is just the beginning of a long, arduous journey Sheikh Anser Aziz and his team has embarked upon. No doubt this was a huge challenge to eliminate encroachments from Aabpara market. It is a great accomplishment by all means.

Now the next step should be to prevent these 'encroachers' returning here. And then move on to Peshawar Morr and Karachi Company. If the resolve remained intact and such operations continued, we hope that these encroachers and squatters would disappear from other markets/bazaars and shopping centres on their own. The message from the Aabpara market operation is loud and clear. Who knows if Sheikh Anser Aziz may even get the sector G-12 and Bani Gala back from the 'encroachers' one day!