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March 15, 2020

Choosing between the CDA brand and the brain

Islamabad

March 15, 2020

Islamabad : As Islamabad is suffering from chronic water problem, this weak a journalist friend managed to get a water bowser delivered to his house.

During a candid talk, the driver told me that they still remember the time of Capital Development Authority (CDA) Chairman Kamran Lashari when their bowsers were well maintained and they were taken good care of.

Mr Lashari was made CDA chairman in the early days of the government of President Pervez Musharraf and he stayed at office for five years until in 2008 he was made the chief commissioner of Islamabad.

The CDA faced the most tumultuous time of its history through the decade that followed Mr Lashari’s tenure. Last year, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Amer Ahmed Ali (AAA) was given charge of the office of the CDA Chairman, who has finally been able to bring the staggering civic body to its feet.

Though it is too soon to comment on his overall performance but one thing is very clear that in this short spell of time he has surmounted enormous odds to bring CDA back to the realm of relevance. If we compare his era with that of Mr Lashari, we can easily conclude that if his predecessor was a brand, he is the brain for the civic body.

Consider: When the then Interior Minister brought Mr Lashari he announced that he is “a gift for Islamabad”. A gift, truly, he was. Mr Lashari was a man of mega projects and that was the age of extravaganza. President Musharraf, for all the debate about the legality of his rule, knew well the art of creation of money and had a taste for aesthetics in monumentalisation of the city.

It was true to type for authoritarians as they strive to leave lasting imprints on minds and lives of their subjects. Hence, a costly road was built through Margalla Hills on which Daman-e-Koh and the splendid Monal Restaurant was also built. City traffic was eased up with the construction of wide signal-free roads like 7th and 9th Avenues.

Among the many successful projects launched and completed by Mr Lashari is Islamabad Expressway which was game changer as it resolved Faizabad hiccups. Lok Virsa and PNCA were built with the intention that these bodies will help Pakistanis understand their culture.

Pakistan Monument aimed to restore identity of Islamabad as the capital of Pakistan. Mr Lashari done well to make sure that these projects were complete on time and they lived up to the taste and satisfaction of the people of Islamabad.

Now fast forward to the era of Mr AAA, who inherited a CDA that had been tormented by creation of unnecessary bodies like CADD. Municipality had been taken off from the civic body in such a way that the CDA was to foot their bills and take flack for their incompetence.

Funds were dried up and there was no authoritarian in power to seek a monumentalisation bonanza.

In such a situation, Mr AAA introduced the New Master Plan for the federal capital. He brought professionals in the CDA board. To create money, he dust off CDA development projects like completion of Blue Area, and laying down of residential sectors so that plots could be auction and the empty coffers could be filled. Now that the CDA is sustainable, he is moving towards development projects that will benefit the masses. Digitization of records and induction of professionals have discouraged corruption.

Unfortunately, those that took undue benefits before he assumed office are spreading rumours in media about CDA projects. To boot, the civic body has a very passive and unprofessional media team. I fail to see any proactive action or professional handling of social media by this team. As a result, people choose brand when it comes to choose between a brand and a brain.