The Capital Development Authority (CDA) took swift action to seal over a dozen shops illegally established on a plot initially allocated for constructing a cinema. This move by the CDA was part of its ongoing efforts to address non-conforming land use in the city.
Protests Erupt as CDA Seals Then Reopens Illegally Set Up Shops
The sealing of the shops by the CDA’s building control directorate triggered the traders’ immediate and vocal response. They staged a protest in front of the main CDA office, chanting slogans against the CDA chairman and other officials. The traders claimed they had already obtained a court-issued stay order against eviction.
De-Sealing of Shops
Following the protest, the CDA decided to de-seal the shops, indicating a temporary reprieve for the traders. The de-sealing of the shops raised questions about the CDA’s enforcement efforts and their ability to address non-conforming land use.
Decades ago, the CDA had allotted an amenity plot in Sitara Market at a reduced price to construct a cinema house. The plot’s allottee, however, went on to build Kohsar Cinema, which operated until the early 2000s. Allegedly, in collusion with CDA officials, the cinema’s owner ceased its operations and converted the building for commercial use.
The owner transformed the ground floor into dozens of shops and repurposed the first and second floors into a hotel. During this period, the CDA’s estate wing appeared to limit its actions to issuing notices for non-conforming land use. However, it recently came to light that despite substantial violations, the CDA had transferred the property to a new buyer.
Violations and Unexplained Transfers
CDA regulations dictate that property cannot be transferred without removing any violations. The civic agency typically enforces this rule even for minor infractions, such as constructing an extra washroom in a setback area. However, in this instance, the property was transferred to a new owner without the intended cinema on the plot and with numerous unauthorized shops and a hotel in operation.
CDA Chairman Orders Inquiry
The matter gained significant attention, prompting CDA Chairman Anwarul Haq to order an inquiry to identify those responsible for this unusual transfer. The inquiry committee is currently working to establish accountability.
While the CDA temporarily seals then reopens illegally set up shops due to a court-issued stay order, the civic agency’s fully-fledged law directorate is expected to pursue legal action to vacate the stay order. The property owner has also indicated their intention to set up a cinema in the building.
Cinemas have held a significant place in Islamabad’s history. In the late 1960s, the CDA allocated three plots at discounted rates to construct cinema houses. The first of these cinemas was built in Melody Market in 1966. Unfortunately, several cinemas in the city have closed over the years, including Melody Cinema, which was abandoned after a fire in 2003, and Nafdec cinemas in Blue Area, F-6.
The recent events surrounding the unauthorized use of a plot meant for a cinema highlight the ongoing challenges of land use enforcement and the preservation of cultural amenities in the city.