PROPERTY

 

REAL ESTATE: GREAT CHANGES IN THE OFFING

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Real estate scenario in Lahore is undergoing a radical change

 

BY IMTIAZ RAFI BUTT
July 04 - 10, 2005
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The events of 9/11 shook the entire West and the United States in particular. The Americans turned their anger on the immigrant Muslims, causing them irreparable miseries. Generations of Pakistanis had been living in the United States for years and they used to call it their home. Many held green cards and nationality. They had by now forgotten the country of their origin or had a dim recollection of it. The more recent generations had nothing to do with Pakistan. Hence, after 9/11 when they found themselves under attack, they were extremely disillusioned; their self assurance lay shattered. They were filled with apprehension about their future. Consequently, they began transferring their funds to Pakistan. According to a Ministry of Finance report, Pakistanis in Europe and the US remitted over seven billion dollars to their mother country. Most of it went into real estate. It is worth mentioning that the capital which came from abroad ended the slump that had gripped the property business for years. It was a 'natural' hype. This massive investment circulated like blood in the veins of real estate. Unfortunately, some businessmen associated with this trade took to speculation. Purchase and sale of files became the order of the day and was blazed as a boom. But it was no boom at all. It was, in fact, sheer hypertension which as expected led to a heart attack. At the moment it is lying in the ICU. It is out of danger but will take a long time to bounce back. Whatever was happening in the domain of real estate was quite contrary to my own long experience in this trade. I wrote three articles on the subject to forewarn the pressure in the trade. I was apprehensive that this artificial hype would harm the business as a whole. When something natural is put through an adverse process, it acquires a worried shape and loses its original contours. I have resorted to the use of medical metaphors to emphasize my point of view and save others from committing the same error.

Now a word about the present and the likely future of real estate. I take my hat off to President Pervaiz Musharraf for putting Pakistan on the road to rapid development and utilizing all his energies and recourses for the purpose. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz too, is motivated by a similar vision. In the Punjab, Chief Minister Pervaiz Ellahi is also moving shoulder to shoulder with them. It is President Musharraf's innermost desire that the fruits of national progress should trickle down to the poor and the under privileged. It was with that end in view that he urged Sheikh Nahyan al Mubarak Nahyan, the nephew of Sheikh Zayed, to invest in Pakistan. Sheikh Naahyan promised to do his best in this regard. As being personally acquainted with Sheikh Nahyan, I know him to be a high-minded man, an enlightened and humble soul who loves Pakistan and believes in progress and development. He has a soft corner for Lahore and his Dhabi Group accordingly chose this city to launch its first project, namely, the Zayed Commercial Centre. The Chief Minister readily allotted 91 kanals of government land on Ferozepur Road for the purpose. The Zayed Commercial Centre project would be the largest of its kind in South Asia and would cost 25 crore dollars. A day before its inauguration, Sheikh Nahyan also signed an agreement for the construction of a huge residential complex near Lahore which would be spread over an area of 30,000 acres. In recognition of his meritorious services, the President of Pakistan conferred the "Hilal-e-Pakistan" on him. He certainly deserved it. I offer him my heartiest congratulations on winning this coveted award. Here I must say a word about Mr. Bashir Tahir, the financial advisor to Sheikh Nahyan. Mr. Bashir is a wizard in his field and very loyal to the respected Shiekh. As a Pakistani, he is always brimming with patriotic fervor for his country. Mr. Bashir has played a notable role in the initiative of these projects.

 

 

It is the projects like these that I have in mind when I speak of great changes (economic and social) in the offing. Two projects have been initiated so far. One is the Zayed Commercial Centre already referred above. It will be a magnificent project in keeping with international standards. With a 45-storey edifice, it would be the tallest and largest in Pakistan. It will comprise apartments and a shopping area. The second, a 25-storey edifice, would house a five star hotel. The third would be a 20-storey building, comprising offices. It would also boast a banquet hall for 5000 persons, an amusement park and a parking lot for 4000 cars. Another project that of a new city is being launched by the Dhabi Group across the River Ravi on a trait of land measuring 30 thousand acres. It will subscribe to international standards and have the capacity to house 15 lakh people; both the projects are likely to offer substantial financial facilities to the buyers.

The real estate scenario in Lahore is thus undergoing a radical change. Developers, investors, engineers and others connected with the trade should gear up for these imminent social and economic changes and adjust themselves accordingly. This is the only route to survival. The coming change is a challenge that will lead a new vitality to our creativity and passion for progress. Some great projects are scheduled to come up in Lahore. The public will soon learn about them. These projects, it may be added, are drawing foreign investment on a massive scale.

President Musharraf, it is learnt, has also suggested to Sheikh Nayan to consider the construction of a residential complex in Islamabad on the other side of Margalla Hills. The "Al-Ghurair" group of Dubai has already arrived in Islamabad and initiated the residential plazas project in DHA. It is the president's earnest desire that the target of 30 lakh houses, which Pakistan needs, be achieved at all cost. Things are moving forward in accordance with his programme. May Allah Almighty grant him the strength to translate his dreams into reality. May He also grant Sheikh Nahyan al Mubarak the best of health and all the success in the world. His father's prayers are also with him because he is the most obedient and devoted to his father that I have ever known.