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PHA Housing Programme

What happened to the money invested by the people in 'Islamabad New City' and 'Mera Ghar' scheme

From SHHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Feb 05 - 11, 2001

The high profile publicity and the fanfare with which the Pakistan Housing Authority, a part of Ministry of Housing and Works, has launched its housing programme reminds the people of this country how they were cheated by the previous two governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif who launched mega housing projects under the name of "Islamabad New City" and "Mera Ghar", which ultimately proved to the total fraud.

The National Housing Authority, still a part of Ministry of Housing and Works and the Capital Development Authority had collected over Rs. 600 million from general public as part payment of plots allotted which were never handed over to them. Once bitten twice shy the public are showing no response to the Mega publicity campaign launched by the Pakistan Housing Authority at the cost of millions. There is a general perception that, like the previous schemes, this project may also flop.

Incidentally the present team of managers are using the same slogans and publicity material to promote the sale of this Housing Scheme which was used by the sponsors of the previous two projects "A dream comes true" is a slogan which was invented by the organisers of Islamabad New City, copied by the Mera Ghar and now being repeated for the P.H.A. scheme which has been simultaneously launched at Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar. In order to attract the public to the new venture the government should have first tried to restore the confidence of the general public by pacifying the investors of the two previous schemes, also launched by government agencies, either by giving them the promised plots or at least refunding their deposited amounts.

When this issue was brought to the notice of Minister for Housing & Works in July last (when the present scheme was being planned) he assured that the affectees of Islamabad New City will either receive their money back or get the plots as promised. "So far his ministry has been busy in examining the various projects launched by Nawaz Sharif government last year under Mera Ghar Scheme. This study has been completed and now the lslamabad New City will be on the top of his agenda."

In an exclusive interview with PAGE, Mr.Abbas Sarfraz had said that he was fully aware of the hardship of those who had deposited their hard earned money for residential plots under Islamabad new city scheme. Most of this money is safe, luckily no money under Mera Ghar scheme was yet collected from general public but work had been started on various projects with government funds. That needed immediate attention of the authorities to save as much as possible, he added. Unfortunately, however, nothing happened in this regard so far.

Former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, inaugurated in 1999 the gigantic 'Mera Ghar Scheme' in all the four provinces and lslamabad amidst a blitz of publicity in press and electronic media. Under this scheme the government proposed the construction of over 500,000 houses for low income groups over the next three years at a cost of Rs.64 billion on 20,000 acres of state land. Initially pilot projects were to be launched on 17 sites in major cities namely Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Multan, Sukkur, Quetta and Hyderabad for the construction of 19,000 small housing units on state land costing Rs.14.5 billion. For this purpose a new organization known as Prime Minister's Housing Authority, under the chairmanship of Ehtesab Bureau Chief, Senator Saifur Rehman was created.

A similar authority at the federal level known as National Housing Authority (N.H.A) with almost similar objectives and terms of reference was already existing. This authority had prepared a national action plan to meet the acute shortage of housing units. The plan of action was duly approved by the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in his first tenure in 1992 who gave a grant of Rs.100 million for preliminaries for the National Housing Authority. With the change of the government the committed funds were not released. The government of Benazir Bhutto asked the NHA to carry out its programme in partnership with private sector and as a result of which the NHA, in collaboration with some private investors including a construction company of Singapore, launched the lslamabad New City project with a big fanfare. The NHA collected over Rs.300 million from poor, needy and shelterless people most of them government servants — as a first installment against promise of plot allotment. This was the first phase which was handled by the N.H.A. The second phase was looked after by the Capital Development Authority which also collected over, Rs.280 million from public.

The Minister Housing & Works Makhdoom Amin Fahim flanked by the then Chairman CDA & Director General of NHA laid the foundation of Islamabad New City. The Ministry of Housing & Works arranged publication of special supplements in the leading national newspapers in the country on the occasion. In his speech the minister said Man's urge for perfection leads him to dream. Fresh air, clean water, healthy environment and pleasant surroundings — all are a part of this dream. Over thirty years ago, a master plan was drawn up for such a residential area in the foot hills of the Margallas. It crystallized in the form of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Parallel to the best planned cities in the world, it soon became a powerful magnet to all those wishing to settle in this secure and peaceful arcadia. But with the passage of time, the space available could not keep pace with the growing influx of people in the area.

Ever since their inception, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the National Housing Authority (NHA) have been making relentless efforts to deal with this situation on war-footings. Lack of funds has been the major hurdle in the achievement of this goal. On the then prime minister's directive, the Capital Development Authority and National Housing Authority went for the logical remedy — that is, encourage local and foreign investment into the housing industry. This resulted in the formation of a joint venture company (JVC) between the CDA, the NHA, and a consortium of multinational companies. Together, they have launched Pakistan's largest ever land and housing development project, Islamabad New City."

The project fell victim to politics. The main Pakistani partner was arrested and the D.G. National Housing Authority was put under suspension and an inquiry was ordered by the caretaker prime minister Meraj Khalid in 1997. It was still going on when Nawaz Sharif took over and the inquiry was assigned to Ehtesab Bureau. The D.G. N.H.A. is still under suspension and hundreds of staff members of NHA are receiving their salaries for the last over many years for no work and thousands of those who had paid millions of their hard earned money to the National Housing Authority are running from pillar to post to get a plot or refund of their deposited money.

Under the new scheme the Pakistan Housing Authority — new name for Nawaz Sharif PM's Housing authority — plans to carry out 18 housing projects in four major cities of Pakistan at an estimated cost of Rs.4.5 billion. Offering booking for 4500 dwelling units the Director General P.H.A. declared that allotment will be made on first come first served basis. The prices offered for different type of units are considered on the high side specially so in Karachi. The PHA has asked a price of Rs. 1500,000 for a 1295 sq ft apartment in Gulistan-e-Johar, where developers are offering possession of complete apartment of 1200 sq ft at Rs. 10 to 12 lacs with only 30 per cent down payment and rest in 70 monthly instalments without any markup. How PHA finds buyers is yet to be seen.