A recent announcement of allotment through ballot of plots in two new sectors of Islamabad may well go down as the most controversial event in the history of Pakistan’s young capital.
First, it sent the social media up in arms over what the netizens saw as rigged balloting, favouring the high and mighty. Then, another aspect of the matter attracted scrutiny by the Islamabad High Court (IHC). In the meantime, senior members of the bureaucracy complained they had been bumped off the list to accommodate junior but better connected civil servants.
On 17 August 2021, the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority (FGEHA) announced allotment of 4,723 plots of land among BS-16 to BS-22 officials of the federal government, judges of superior and subordinate judiciary, and lawyers, while the allotment of plots in these sectors to journalists is still awaited.
However, the allotment of plots to country’s most powerful judges, a couple of special assistants to the prime minister, and influential bureaucrats created an uproar after the stories published in the mainstream media and circulated in the social media.
The matter was also discussed in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where the FGEHA disclosed that it is considering of abolishing all the quota for plots except for the employees of the federal government for which the institution was established.
The illustrious allotees
Among the recipients of the plots in F-14 and F-15 rae about 50 judges of the superior courts including Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Musheer Alam, Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed, Justice Maqbool Baqir, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Aminud Din Khan, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan.
The retired judges including Justice Faisal Arab, Justices Ejaz Afzal Khan, Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Amir Hani Muslim, Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, Rana Mohammad Shamim, Sheikh Najamul Hassan and Riaz Ahmed Khan have also been allotted plots. Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Faisal Arab got two plots each in these sectors since being judge of superior courts they were entitled to two plots.
Over the last few years, FGEHA has been inundated with complaints of out-of-turn allotments. The recent instance in which the Authority has allotted plots to majority of the Supreme Court, High Courts, and district courts judges, several senior bureaucrats have been found complaining of being deprived of plots.
Last year, a former secretary cabinet Abu Akif challenged the allotment of plots to Azam Khan, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and other well-connected bureaucrats including Hasan Nasir Jamy, Mohammad Aslam, Mian Asad Hayauddin, Zafar Hassan, Mohammad Javed Ghani, Fazal Yazdani Khan, Syed Ejaz Ali Shah Wasti, and Shafqat Jalil.
As per documents of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), the FGEHA delayed the allotment of plots to bureaucrats for four months. During this time, at least six officers in grade 22 retired, making their successors eligible for the plots instead.
It is said that the authority despite issuing letters to the retired bureaucrats of 7th Common a couple of years ago, excluded them in the recent balloting and allotted the plots to the junior ones.
It may be mentioned that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) also pointed out loopholes in the allotment of plots to the judges of district courts observing that those judges who have been sacked for allegations of corruption and misconduct has been rewarded with the expensive plots on throwaway prices.
IHC has suspended the allotment to the district judiciary and constituted larger bench to hear this matter on September 13.
FGEHA on the other hand claimed of allotment of plots in transparent manner. The authority stated that it started registration under membership drive Phase-II on ‘age-wise seniority basis’ for federal government employees and other specified groups in April 2015 as per approved quota policy and eligibility criteria of the scheme.”
Almost 80,000 members got registered, including government servants from BS-1 to BS-22 as well as judges of superior/lower judiciary till May 2016, the FGEHA said, adding that the allottees whose names were included in balloting of plots for sectors F-14/15 were issued consent letters in 2016 whereas balloting was conducted to allocate them plot numbers only.
The Authority further said that 1,704 allottees of F-14/15 of category-1 (BS-20 to BS-22) including judges, who fulfilled the approved policy of FGEHA, were allotted plots through random computerised balloting on 17 August 2021 in a transparent manner whereas 1,690 allottees of category-2 (BS-18 to BS-19) and 1,329 allottees in category-3 (BS-16 to BS-17) were also allotted plots.
All allotments have been made as per approved criteria/policy of the FGEHA and the balloting has been conducted for allocation of plot numbers to bona-fide allottees under transparent computerised balloting, the housing authority said.
The genesis of FGEHA
The Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) was established as a cell in Ministry of Housing & Works in 1989. In 2019, the government reconstituted it as Federal Government Employees Housing Authority through an Ordinance. It stated purpose was to initiate, launch, sponsor and implement housing schemes for Federal Government Employees on ownership basis in all major cities of Pakistan.
Initially, this scheme was for the government servants only. However, on 8 November 1999, the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench hearing a case related to the acquisition of land for sector G-13 had, prescribed the criteria for allotment of plots to judges of the superior courts.
The bench had given directions to include employees of autonomous and semi-autonomous organisations, the Election Commission of Pakistan, Supreme Court, Federal Shariat Court and LHC Rawalpindi bench, the National Assembly, senior members of the armed forces, journalists, doctors, engineers, and lawyers.
The same bench had also directed the housing foundation to allot plots to senior lawyers, namely Sharifuddin Pirzada, as well as former Chief of Naval Staff retired Admiral Fasih Bokhari.
Pakistan’s housing deficit
Housing is a basic and fundamental human need. Pakistan is grappling with a worsening housing crisis. Rapid population growth, overcrowding, development of slums and Katchi Abadis, scarcity of land and lack of financial resources have further aggravated the situation.
Pakistan is the seventh-most populous country in the world. According to the 2017 census, its population is 207.7 million and has grown at the rate of 2.4 percent per year in the intercensal period.
Its urban population, on the other hand, has grown at the rate of 2.7 percent per year during the same period and is estimated at 75.5 million. According to the 2017 census, total number of housing units throughout the country was 32.2 million, 63.6 percent of which were rural areas and 36.4 percent in urban areas.
As per provisional results of 2017 census, the urban population shows a growing trend with 36.4 percent of the population living in urban areas. The comparative position of Provinces and Areas shows similar trend in urban population with a slightly higher increase in Punjab.
On the other hand, a significant decrease has been observed in the share of Urban population in federal capital Islamabad, which gone down from 65.72 percent to 50.58 percent, indicating that growth occurred in the rural areas of Islamabad.
Among the provinces, Sindh is the most urbanized province, where 52.02 percent population lives in urban areas.