The Supreme Court of Pakistan yesterday asked the authorities to check unbridled growth of housing societies based on concerns of these developments harming the environment. Environmental concerns aren’t the only problem with these mushrooming housing societies. Often these societies are selling plots illegally or are fronts for fraud.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) registered an FIR last month against five persons including three employees of the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) for embezzling Rs.570 million in OGDCL employees Housing Society (Chattar) Old Muree Road.

Earlier in November the Capital Development Authority (CDA) blacklisted 73 housing societies in Islamabad that had advertised sale of plots without taking approval from the department. The sales of plots made real estate brokers millions of rupees. Victims of the scam claimed they have legal documents of purchase of their plot or house, as well as the utility bills they have been paying since their time of residence. The government was probably involved or bribed. If the housing was illegal then the government departments should not have provided utility connections.

Now, after all the damage is done, the NAB is going to identify the officials in the CDA and other departments who did not put efforts to stop growth of these societies and also in other departments as WAPDA, PTCL and Sui Gas. The CDA had pointed out over 100 such housing societies in the city. The action is being taken against the housing schemes that have not obtained NOC from CDA or are falsely marketing themselves as being located within the limits of Islamabad.

With growing urban population, the demand for housing will continue to rise. In Pakistan, where there is demand, there is always room for exploitation and bribery. Private contractors, estate agents and the government are all complicit. The Supreme Court is right to want to check the growth of these societies, the buck must stop somewhere. However, most of the risk of holding these illegal properties has been passed on to the unassuming customer, who will bear the brunt of any official action.