It is not a secret that both Sharif brothers have always been very enthusiastic about ‘dream projects’, be it the Motorway which they wish to extend through the entire country, or the most recent Metro Bus project , which has altered the landscape of Lahore forever; debatable whether for better or worse.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) is currently working on an estimated US$12 billion mega-project which includes building a twin capital across the Margalla Hills, connecting the two with a tunnel. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, despite severe opposition from politicians and members of the civil society, has directed CDA to continue working on the project .
To initiate and execute a mega-project, without being stained by allegations of corruption and serious controversies is a feat yet to be accomplished by any government in the history of Pakistan. This project is no exception. Politicians, including Imran Khan and Mushahid Hussain Sayed, locals of Islamabad and environmentalists from all over the country, have raised concerns on the detrimental effects the plan will have on the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP), but their voices have gone unheard.
It is also alleged that the project has not been reviewed by the Planning Commission, nor sanctioned by Executive Committee of National Economic Council. It also lacks the essential approval by any higher authority, including the Environment Division and the Environment Protection Agency. It is unfathomable that the agencies set up for the very task of evaluating environmental risks attached to development schemes, and which cost millions to the national exchequer annually, are being purposefully ignored once again. Disband them, send the officials home, or consider their key input.
The PM must realise that copying Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Avenue alone is not reflective of ‘vision’ or foresight. When billions of dollars and ecosystem of the capital is at stake, it would be unwise to proceed without addressing legitimate concerns. Much better to do it voluntarily, instead of facing embarrassment at the hands of the Supreme Court, where the matter will end up as it did in 2007, if the dismissive approach is not abandoned.