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December 17, 2018

How to get expensive land in the name of hotel

Top Story

December 17, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The issue of construction of international standard five-star hotels in federal capital to enable it to host international events and conferences and be counted as one the leading cities in the world is being deliberately confused by media and being coloured as an issue of violation of some bylaws that can be regulated by taking money from the violators.

Construction of international standard five- or seven-star hotels is the first step towards making a city a hub of global adventures like hosting of international events of sports, trade exhibitions, conferences etc.

Business of international standard hotels starts giving profits after several years of investments so usually the land for construction of such hotels, which is always situated at key and prestigious locations in a city and is very expensive, is leased out at very low rates to facilitate investors. International standard hotels always have amenities like ‘service apartments’, small commercial outlets within hotel vicinity, both in direct control of the hotel management, meant to cater some immediate needs of the visiting guests from across the world.

However, investors usually defraud authorities by acquiring land for hotel at throwaway prices and then try to construct commercial shops and residential apartments which return money and huge profits even before start of construction of the buildings. Such investors later get the same illegally built buildings regulated by using their big influence on everyone.

For this purpose, investors misuse term “service apartments”, a terminology used in international hotel industry and meant as amenity of a five-star hotel given on rent to visitors just like hotel rooms but has some facilities like small kitchen etc. so a few number of guests can stay for relatively longer period of time or even for few days in their own style and comfort also by cooking their own food as generally hotels can’t serve food according to taste of each and every visitor coming from different parts of the world.

The term never means a residential apartment to be given to some individual or family for permanent residence or use. Such apartments are always part of the hotel and are a requirement of a luxurious five-star hotel as per international standards and even if sub-leased to some party, these can’t be sold out to hundreds of individuals on permanent basis.

The tactics used to befool people and the institutions are like that the investment of the investors will be wasted, third party interests have been created and their ‘hard-earned’ money will be wasted, etc., and all this is discussed by media without realising what was the basic objective of lease of the government land at throwaway prices and by completely ignoring that nothing is more important than the national interest and prestige and glorification of the federal capital of the country. There is no doubt that investors must be facilitated in every possible way so they can earn good profits of their investments, employment is generated and businesses can grow but how the frauds can be defended using such arguments?

The background of a related issue in Islamabad is this that in 2004 when capital was preparing to host OIC summit, the Foreign Office officially wrote to CDA through its letter U.O. No. OIC-4/25/20-03 dated 27-01-2004 to allocate land at some prestigious places in the federal capital, like near Convention Center, for construction of international standard five-star hotels so Islamabad can be made able to host the international events. CDA started the process but the same move could not be finalised at that moment. However, later because of the same concern and need, CDA moved to allocate plots at prestigious locations in the federal capital and for their subsequent auction through public bidding.

In case of award of land for Grand Hyatt Hotel adjacent to Constitutional Avenue, a place which is part of Zone-III of Islamabad, where construction for residential purposes was strictly banned. In this case, the part of land leased, is in fact, the land of the “right of way” of Kashmir Highway where any construction for residential purposed is absolutely out of question and it was allowed to be leased only for the purpose of construction of an international standard five-star hotel. The land was leased out at such a prestigious location of the federal capital of Pakistan in order fulfill the requirements of urgent need of international standard five-star hotel in this locality adjacent to Constitutional Avenue at the corner of Diplomatic Enclave.

The land for Grand Hyatt Hotel was auctioned at only Rs75,000 per sq feet while only few hours after this auction, the bidding of plot for Centaurus, situated much away from this place and on a relatively less important location in Islamabad, took place and it was auctioned at Rs190,100 per sq feet. This was because the plot for Grand Hyatt was only meant for international standard hotel and its related amenities. This is a different story that even the party which won the bidding of plot for Centaurus also never started constructing the international standard hotel apparently because of same reasons of delayed profits.

It will clearly be an act against the interests of the Pakistani nation if such a prestigious place adjacent to Constitutional Avenue of the federal capital is regulated by taking any amount of billions of rupees by allowing residential flats in the name of “Serviced Apartments” in violation of all laws, rules and the Master Plan of Islamabad. Some media people are trying to present the case in a way that this objective can be achieved through the newly installed political government.

Those who are crafting arguments to take huge money and regulate the residential apartments at the Constitutional Avenue are unaware of the fact that when news of construction of residential apartments was broken back in 2008, the BNP Pv Ltd (Originally contract was awarded to one ‘BNP Group’ headed by Lt Gen (R) Tauqeer Zia), the company handing this project now, had written an official letter to the CDA clarifying that some people are trying to undermine this prestigious project by spreading disinformation that some residential apartments are being built at the location of Grand Hyatt Hotel whereas the under-construction site is that of service apartments needed for the hotel as part of its amenities.

Though some relaxation were obtained by the company from the then CDA management for some changes in building plan, but it was always very clear from the CDA side that around 200 service apartments and shopping areas will never be sold out to third party and will always be managed directly by the hotel management. Even such subsequent relaxation obtained from the CDA in connivance with some of its officials have no legal standing as all basic changes in this case needed approval of the CDA board which was never granted. Still no change in building plan or relaxations given by the CDA later on, allowed the project to construct or sale residential apartments at this location.

On the question of regularization by obtaining few billion rupees, the government officials are very clear. They argue that this project meant for construction of an international standard hotel must not be compromised and illegal constructions must not be regularized even if US$ 100 billion are paid to the authority or the national exchequer. “This is a matter of safeguarding national prestige and face of the federal capital and not that of regularizing something by taking huge money,” a senior official told The News and questioned “If we will take Rs50 billion and regularize these residential apartments at this location adjacent to Constitutional Avenue, what will we do if some other violator comes in tomorrow and offers us Rs100 billion to construct residential apartments in the Parliament House? Will we allow him bytaking money?” “The answer is ‘No’,” he said. He said that the affecttees of the country wide anti-encroachment drive could also argue that they should also be charged with some fine and their occupied lands be regularised.

The media persons are building an argument that no law in Pakistan defines term “Service Apartments” so these can be regularized. Same viewpoint was dismissed by a single member bench and then by a division of honourable Islamabad High Court as definition of “Serviced Apartments” is very clear internationally and can’t be given a new meaning here in Pakistan to facilitate few high and mighty only because the term is not defined in Pakistani laws. The definition in fact was not at all needed to be defined as it has very clear and obvious meanings internationally in hoteling industry without any dispute over its interpretation.

The Grand Hyatt Hotel was to be made operational by fall 2008, a date which was later changed to early months of 2009. A decade has been passed and even the construction of hotel is yet to begin while hundreds of luxurious apartments have been built and sold out and now a massive campaign is underway to regularise every illegality and that too on a location situated adjacent to the Constitutional Avenue.

An argument forwarded by some media people regarding not constructing the hotel until now is about an objection of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on the height of this building. However, same objection was resolved by decreasing the total number of storyes to 23 in return of which the BNP Pvt Ltd got a huge favour of rescheduling of the amount it was supposed to pay with an extension of five years in time period of payments.

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