Equality of citizens being fundamental to constitutional governance, Article 25 of our Constitution unequivocally mandates that “All citizens are equal before law”. There is no proviso or exception to this command. But that is not so in today’s Pakistan. Given our traditionally corrupted governance it has become increasingly problematic for the courts of law to ensure implementation of this constitutional mandate.
While meek and weak submit themselves to the orders of the courts the high and mighty do not; their refusal as much rooted in their flimsy excuses as spurred on by their administrative clout. Nothing, perhaps illustrates this conundrum more pointedly than the consistent refusal by two IGs in the capital to obey the apex court’s order to shift their offices out of the residential area – as many others have already done.
To ensure strict adherence to the dictate of the master plan for the capital that residential areas would not be used for commercial purposes there is a court order that non-conformist use of houses should come to an end. A number of offices, beauty parlours, guest houses and eateries have shifted out of the residential areas. But quite a few haven’t, including the offices of IG Islamabad Police and IG Motorway Police.
The concerned department, CDA, in this case, was ordered to lock these offices if they refuse to shift. But it hasn’t, eliciting observation by the Supreme Court: ‘if the law enforcement departments above the law?’. Why were their offices not sealed? The court wants an answer to this question from the CDA chairman. Hopefully, by the time of next hearing, on March 14, the high and mighty of the law-enforcement outfits would have given up on their obduracy and departed from the residential area of F-8/3 – even if their new offices have to be housed in containers.
Clearing the mess of non-conformist use of residences, encroachments, road blocks and misuse of green belts is indeed a huge challenge. But if this city is to keep functioning as the nation’s capital it got to retain its grace and exclusivity, which is possible only by hermetically sticking to the original master plan.
While other world capitals have defied alterations to their master plans and building codes and retained their originality over the passage of many generations Islamabad has not even in less than a couple of years – thanks to political greed, corrupt bureaucracy and ill-informed engineering. Not only have green belts and open spaces been converted into residential sectors, a case in point is creation of E-7 and long green belt of F-8/1 facing the F-9 National Park as residential areas, the building code has also been violated by allowing additional floors in the Blue Area and other markets.
Resultantly, the services like water supply, street lighting and sewerage lines go more often than not out of operation. Add to this, the CDA’s insatiable lust for money it made by allowing encroachments by hiring out open spaces in the shopping centres. There was a time when Islamabad would smell like a garden and its footpaths invited long walks. But now the city stinks and its footpaths have been occupied by powerful encroachers.
The CDA in its present shape is definitely in no position to restore the grace and glory of the nation’s capital even by half of the original. So, as we share the superior judges’ anxiety to secure revival of capital’s master plan and hope for their success, we also know how formidable are the obstacles on the road to that destination.