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