PML-N govt building homes in the air

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LAHORE – The Aashiyana Housing Project (AHP), backed by the Punjab government, is all set to turn into a housing scam, as mystery prevails over the procedures for the project despite the announcement of its inauguration.
As yet, there has been no notification about the project, land acquisition, land transfer, the number of plots and expression of interest for the development of the infrastructure of the AHP. The Punjab government announced the scheme with high-profile publicity and fanfare and it appeared to be an imitation of the “Mera Ghar Scheme” housing project launched by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif during his last tenure as the prime minister.
The Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC), owned and established by the Punjab government to develop AHP to provide homes to people with monthly income of less than Rs 20,000, has so far delayed making public the rules of business. And the delay has cast many doubts on the project’s certain aspects.
Under the earlier “Mera Ghar Scheme”, Nawaz created the Prime Minister’s Housing Authority under the chairmanship of then Ehtesab Bureau chief Saifur Rehman. The project proposed the construction of over 500,000 houses for low-income groups over a span of three years at a cost of Rs 64 billion on 20,000 acres of state land. But the project was put on the back burner after the Nawaz government’s toppling.
People suspect that AHP could also meet the same fate. They also fear that the scheme was a gamble, as PLDC was expected to collect more than Rs 90 million through the application process and Rs 1.6 billion from the 25 percent down payment by successful applicants.
A senior official at the CM Secretariat said the Soi Aasal area, near Raiwind, had been shown as the project site, but no one knew whether the land belonged to the government or was owned privately. It is also a mystery whether the land has been transferred to the PLDC for the development of the scheme, he added. “The Punjab government has also shied away from announcing the total number of plots and just mentioned the size of houses to be built,” the official said.
A PLDC official said the company’s Project Director Maj (r) Liaquat Saeed Qureshi had issued the expression of interests for prequalification of firms to construct the houses, but the process was still incomplete. He said a number of PML-N leaders were vying to win the construction contract for their favourite firms.
Pointing out nepotism, he said three MPAs had been made members of the PLDC board of governors, while Sheikh Allauddin had been made its chairman for his unshaken loyalty. Ghulam Mustafa, an expert in development of housing schemes, called the scheme a fraud. An official of LDA Town Planning Wing said confusion was prevalent about the project’s total area and cost. “The expression of interest announced 100 acres of land and Rs 1 billion as the cost of the project, but the CM later announced that its cost would be Rs 7 billion and 330 acres of land would be developed.”
When contacted, PLDC Marketing Head Masooma Yousaf said she did not know about the notification and the registration of AHP, but it was launched under the patronage of the Punjab government. She said the rules of business were being drafted, adding that they would soon be finalised.