ISLAMABAD: A lawyers’ hostel, built on prime land in the heart of the capital using subsidies from the government, has become the hub of commercial activities after sections of it were leased out to private departments.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had leased out the 80-room, Rs700 million hostel to a five-star hotel. The hotel, though, has apparently subleased a portion of the building to a television channel and a non-governmental organisation (NGOs).
It has been learnt that the management of the hotel has been receiving Rs0.7 million as rent from the television channel, and a further Rs0.4 million from an NGO. The hotel, though, pays the SCBA Rs2.7 million.
A senior member of the SCBA told The Express Tribune that the sublet had been sanctioned by a previous body of the lawyers and the channel set up its offices in July 2017.
However, soon after taking charge, some members of the new SCBA body had raised questions over the legality of such an agreement.
SCBA general secretary Safdar Tarar said that they had formed a committee to probe the matter.
Former bar secretary Aftab Bajwa, however, claimed that he had opposed the sublet agreements and had given an ultimatum to the hotel to vacate the hostel premises. However, he lamented that he could not follow it through since his tenure ended last October.
Bajwa, however, did admit that the sublet agreements were illegal and in violation of Capital Development Authority (CDA) laws.
Former SCBA president Yaseen Azad said that he had already resigned from the building committee — formed when justice (retired) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was the chief justice of Pakistan and is led by a serving justice of the Supreme Court and comprised of ex-secretaries and presidents to oversee matters relating to the hostel building — owing to misuse of welfare funds.
Azad further explained that per the approved layout plan for the hostel building, a library should have been built in its basement. This space, though, has been leased out to the television channel.
“I believe that the buildings should not be allotted for commercial activities in violation of approved layout plan,” the former SCBA president added.
A senior member, though, revealed that the matter of subletting the building had not been presented before the committee since it has not met for the past two years.
Documents suggest that in 2006, the SCBA had approached the CDA to request an allotment of a plot in Sector G-5/2 for the Bar Association Chamber building. The CDA identified a suitable site in Sector G-11/1, but former SCBA president Asma Jehangir approached the CDA with a request that the plot should be allotted at the requested site.
Islamabad Land Disposal Regulation (ILDR) permits for allotment of plots on subsidised rates only to government institutions. Allotments to private organisations at such rates can only be made via relaxation of rules after formal endorsement from the prime minister.
Then-premier Yousaf Raza Gillani — a former lawyer — had formally endorsed the application and a 99-year lease for the plot was granted to the SCBA in 2011 for Rs18 million, paid by the federal government.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2018.
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