LDA town planning team found involved in frauds worth billions


–17 town planning officials nominated in cases pertaining to illegal constructions, misuse of power

–ACE director confirms taking up matter, registering FIRs against all accused

LAHORE: A massive case of embezzlement and misuse of powers has surfaced in the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) where 17 Town Planning Department officials have been found involved in matters pertaining to illegal constructions that caused losses worth billions to the exchequer, Pakistan Today has learnt.

According to sources, the officers include Chief Town Planner Nadeem Akhtar Zaidi, Town Planning directors Azhar Ali, Ayesha Muttahir, Salman Mehfooz, Ali Nusrat, Deputy Directors Afraz Akhter, Ahmed Saeed and Assistant Directors Tahir Ali, Raza Ali, Afnan Khan, Tayyab Ali, Haris, Zubair, Bilal Ahmed, Ahmed Faraz, Hammad Ali and Hafiz Umer.

“The construction of eight-storey Usmania Hotel opposite Jinnah Hospital is being carried out after conversion of land-use from the LDA right at the crossroads. The conversion of the hotel was approved on an area of approximately 8-9 kanals whereas the total area of the hotel is more than 30 kanals at the site. The construction of a multi-storey hotel at the crossroads will certainly raise privacy concerns for people living in adjoining residential areas besides adding to the traffic mess and additional load on the existing infrastructure,” sources said while sharing the details of the illegal constructions.

The high-rise hotel building in the said area is not an appropriate use of the site due to different town planning standards, they said further and added that LDA staff, including the assistant director, deputy director and town planning director, were involved in it.

“With the involvement of town planning team of LDA, two high-rise buildings are also being erected on a service road of Jail Road near Ammar Hospital against the approval of building plans as according to the provisions of Building Regulations of LDA for converted plots, no window openings can be made on either sides or back of the building.”

They added that additional floors were also constructed against the approved area without parking arrangement for the said floors. “The development of illegal additional floors will add to the load of traffic and parking issues on the road which is a non-compoundable offence,” sources said.

It was learnt that the town planning team was also involved in the construction of a number of multi-storey academic blocks at the University of Management and Technology (UMT), which were being erected without an approval from LDA whereas the site was approved for a housing scheme namely Gushane Ahbab back in the 1990s. “The area of UMT is almost the same as that of the said approved housing scheme stretched at 300 kanals,” they said.

Sources further said that a building plan was approved by the Town Municipal Administration (TMA) of Iqbal Town for ILM College in 2007-08 and all additional constructions are illegal.

“The building control of the said area is vested with LDA since 1979. Mutahar Awan has been obliged against all these illegal constructions of UMT and was also terminated for corruption. However, he is the husband of LDA Deputy Director Ayesha Mutahar who is currently working as the town planning director. Ayesha looks after the matters of illegal constructions of multi-storey blocks in UMT and the varsity management protects Mutahar Awans’ interests in return.”

They revealed that with the connivance of the town planning team, a number of commercial buildings have also been erected on the Canal Bank Road near Bahria Town within the past two years even though commercial buildings were not permitted there.

“Moreover, a multi-storey building on Main Boulevard Gulberg near Centre Point is also being constructed against the Building Regulations of LDA and without proper parking arrangement. The structure of the under-construction high-rise building is also not sound.”

Sources said that after the establishment of a number of illegal car showrooms on Maulana Shaukat Ali Road from Jinnah Hospital to Akbar Chowk, the same were also being established on Khayabane Fardoosi Road, Johar Town in residential areas with an approval from the town planning team.

“This road was not meant for commercial activities and the illegal establishment of car showrooms will certainly destroy the character of the residential area,” they added.

Sources told this scribe that the team of town planning was also involved in the illegal constructions on Defence Road (Bobhtian Chowk on Raiwind Road to Shanoo Baba Roundabout on Alternate Raiwind Road) whereas the road was a residential area in the LDA Master Plan.

“Similarly, a restaurant has been constructed in Gulshan Block of Allama Iqbal Town against the commercial approval as the required rear space of seven feet has not been left open. The building plan was approved for three storeys, but a four-storey building is being erected.”

As per the Building Regulations of LDA, the parking requirement for any commercial construction is one car space for every 1,000 sq ft of covered area whereas the requirement of parking for a restaurant is one car space for every 500 sq ft of covered area. “The development of restaurant on slip road will certainly create additional load on traffic and parking at the corner of the Dubai Chowk,” they added.

Sources said that the team was also involved in the additional illegal construction on an existing double-storey building in Faisal Town, additional construction of an apartment building with four inches thick walls near KIPS Academy Johar Town, additional illegal floor on existing Park Lane Hotel, Gulberg-III; additional illegal construction of a second floor over existing old building of Bashir Sons Cloth in Kareem Block Market, additional construction of upper floors at Al-Nasar Lab near Johar Marriage Hall and illegal construction of a workshop and service centre in N-Block near Khokhar Chowk.

Speaking to Pakistan Today, Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Director Asghar Joiya said they had taken up the matter and an FIR [First Information Report] had been lodged against all 17 officials of LDA. “Now we are investigating the case to hook the culprits,” he said and expressed the resolve that ACE would not allow anyone to inflict losses to the public exchequer.