CMIT to probe into Johar Town plaza demolition


In a manifestation of sheer distrust on Lahore Development Authority (LDA) Director General (DG) Abdul Jabbar Shaheen’s departmental inquiry that issued show-cause notice to 28 officers allegedly involved in the BOR plaza demolition case claiming four deaths, Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif has assigned the Chief Minister Inspection Team (CMIT) to probe in the tragic scandal in true letter and spirit, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The CMIT’s engagement in the case has made blood run clod to top LDA officials and most of accused have started flexing their muscles to use political influences besides consulting their legal advisors to avoid any untoward situation. After the CMIT’s coming into action, the inquiry initiated on October 6 on the direction of LDA DG Abdul Jabbar Shaheen, tasking additional director general (housing) Irfan Bhatti under the Punjab Employees Efficiency, Discipline and Accountability (PEEDA) Act 2006 that issued show-cause notices to 28 alleged LDA officials, stands defunct. As per rules, once a high-powered inquiry gets off the ground, all lower level inquiries were undone automatically. With the volatile development and change of command from the LDA departmental inquiry to the CMIT probe, all hopes of the 28 accused nominated in the LDA inquiry that they could be provided some relaxations have fizzled out.
Well-placed sources in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat revealed that the chief minister saw the inquiry report of the inquiry conducted by the LDA inquiry committee by additional director general (headquarter) Hafiz Ahsanul Haq on the issue of dismantling a residential building constructed upon encroached land in BOR Society in Johar Town, where four people lost their lives and several others were injured.
On this, the CM entrusted the CMIT to probe into the issue and the CMIT would submit its report within seven days, sources added. “The CMIT may co-opt member from the civil engineering department of the University of Engineering and Technology Lahore.
Sources said that the CM reviewed the inquiry conducted by a committee consisting of vide office order NO.LDA/ADMN/PS/670 to conduct a fact-finding probe into demolition operation of plaza situated in BOR Cooperative Housing Society.
A report available with Pakistan Today disclosed that chief town planner, Chaudhry Akram, who was also heading the commercial, recovery and enforcement directorate of town planning wing, admitted in his statement before the inquiry committee that he has no experience regarding building demolition. The report said that the demolition operation was ill-planned, ill-executed and grossly mishandled which resulted in the collapse of the building and caused loss of four precious human lives and injuries to 21 people. According to the inquiry report, the responsibility for this calamitous incident lies squarely on all officers of the town planning wing, engineering wing and directorate of enforcement, who took part in the demolition operation directly or indirectly. It was just because of their negligence/inefficiency (which they committed either by way of omission or by commission), that this tragic incident took place. However, the only exception may be Tahir Shabbir Baloch, assistant director (buildings), who could be exonerated on account of his concern and advice.
According to the inquiry committee report, Baloch resisted utilisation of excavator on the 70 percent demolished structure. The report states that this fact-finding probe cannot pin-point the extent/level of negligence/inefficiency in case of each officer, a regular enquiry under the Punjab Employees, Efficiency, Discipline And Accountability Act, 2006, might be conducted for apportioning the charge and imposing minor/major penalties after establishment of the same against them. The committee observed various lapses and shortcomings.
The report observation said that the demolition activity was carried out in a disorganised manner without proper coordination amongst the concerned directorates/offices and without observing procedural formalities as per prevailing practice for such a big and sensitive operation. “The approved SOP (F/F) for Directorate of Enforcement for sealing and demolition of illegal buildings were not followed for the demolition operation in question,” report mentioned. “The Town Planning Wing carried out the demolition operation at its own through verbal request of manpower from Directorate of Enforcement, machinery from WASA, lighting and generator arrangement from Directorate of EME and mere supervision from Engineering Wing/Directorate of Buildings-I whereas it is an established fact that demolition of buildings of massive structure is an engineering job and as such the Town Planning Wing should have referred the matter to the Engineering Wing for preparation of a cost estimate and formulation of proper demolition plan prior to start of demolition activity as previously practiced in case of demolition of various plazas/buildings in Lahore,” report revealed.
Following are officials who were issued show cause notices, including Chaudhry Akram, chief town planner, Muhammad Fahim, director town planning, Syed Nadeem Akhtar, director town planning-II, Khalid Mahmood Sheikh, director town planning-III, Azhar Ali, deputy director town planning, Mustafa Moazzam, deputy director commercialisation, Asaduz Zaman, deputy director town planning, Fahid Younis, deputy director town planning, Mutahir Awan, assistant director town planning, Tahir Ahmed Qureshi, assistant director town planning, Afraz Akhtar, assistant director town planning, Muhammad Nafees, assistant director, town planning, Irfan Rana, assistant director, town planning, Ahmad Saeed, assistant director, town planning, Umer Mehmood, assistant director, town planning, Muhammad Zubair, assistant director town planning and Muhammad Aqeel, assistant director, town planning from the town planning wing. Saeed Akhtar, chief engineer, UD Wing, Abdul Razzaq, director (EME), Malik Ahmad Nawaz, director (Buildings-I), Iqbal Javaid, deputy director building, Bilal Chughtai, assistant director EME and Hamza Aslam, assistant director EME from the engineering wing. Javaid Sahaf, director enforcement, Ali Bin Sohail, deputy director enforcement, Basit Azizm, assistant director enforcement, Shafique Ayyaz, assistant director enforcement and Uzair Bin Tariq, assistant director enforcement from the enforcement directorate.