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EDITORIAL: Thanks to the couldn’t-care-less attitude of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), almost all high-rise commercial and residential apartment buildings in Islamabad are functioning without completion certificates — formally known as occupancy certificates.

This came out at a recent meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Interior during a discussion of a call-attention notice moved a while ago by a legislator on the “sale and lease of commercial buildings for residential purposes without getting completion certificates in Islamabad”.

The obvious reason the owners of these buildings ignore this requirement is that it entails implementation of layout plans pertaining to such important safety provisions as fire escape staircases and structural stability.

Those in this business cut corners to save money with the connivance of officers responsible for checking irregularities. It amounts to criminal behaviour for putting lives at risk, as seen in several instances in Karachi and Lahore of fire breaking out in such buildings and the people working or living in them finding no escape route for evacuation.

Then there is the unforgettable collapse of the Margalla Towers in Islamabad taking the toll of several lives when the 2005 devastating earthquake hit vast swathes of northern Pakistan and Kashmir.

It turned out that structural flaws had caused the towers to cave in. Yet no lesson has been learnt. It is business as usual for all concerned.

The CDA’s building control section responsible for issuing occupancy certificate and the Metropolitan Corporation of Islamabad’s Emergency and Disaster Management Directorate, which gives fire and safety certificates, limit themselves to putting out notices that are neglected by nearly all violators.

It also emerged at the meeting that some of the developers, taking advantage of the CDA’s lax approach to its obligations, on their own approve transfer rights of apartments.

Such blatant flouting of the safety rules and transfer procedures goes on because those involved have the backing of politically influential individuals. They know they can get away with it.

There is a lot that needs to be fixed. The CDA officials told the parliamentary committee that at present a law is in place under which fine can be imposed on building owners operating without completion certificates.

Fine will not resolve anything. They must be made to address structural problems and other issues imperiling the safety of unsuspecting occupants of badly built buildings.

And in a manifest sloppiness of the civic authority’s performance, its officials also made the startling revelation that there are no regulations to deal with transfer of apartments, seeking time from the committee for framing new regulations.

For their part, the lawmakers directed the CDA to frame regulations and regulatory framework within a month. That won’t be enough. They must also ensure strict implementation of the existing safety rules and regulations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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