Islamabad - The businessmen misusing residential units as offices yesterday accused the Capital Development Authority of discrimination after their premises were sealed.

Around 100 people, including owners and workers of the restaurants and other business ventures sealed by the CDA days back, gathered outside the press club to protest the authority’s action. The protest was led by Atique Khattak, owner of Khiwa Restaurant. They were holding placards inscribed with slogans against the CDA action and demanded time to relocate their businesses to commercial areas. “IG office is also in a house,” read a placard as they chanted slogans against what they called discrimination on the part of CDA.

Talking to The Nation, Ammad Muzaffar of Samsung Showroom said that CDA was resorting to discrimination while going for the action. “The offices of major political parties, government departments, embassies and even the IG Islamabad police office is housed in residential units but nobody took action against them,” he said. “The rent of commercial properties has increased up to 15-20 per cent after the recent CDA drive against non-conforming use of houses,” he added.

Kamran Khan, owner of Zefra Restaurant said the CDA’s action was harming business. “This action of CDA is generating unemployment… thousands of people have nothing to do after CDA sealed these business premises,” he added.

Abbass Musaddaq of Junaid Jamshed said that business activities had been conducted in residential houses years and cannot be abolished in days. “The offices of PPP, PTI, PML-N and PML-Q besides guest houses and embassies are in residential areas.

The office of IG Islamabad police is even in a house in F-7 but nobody took action against them,” he said. He demanded CDA bosses to stop the campaign and de-seal the premises.

Director Building Control Section CDA Zahid Sultan said the objective of the campaign is not to occupy property of the others but to discourage the trend of using residential units for commercial purposes.

He said de-sealing of the premises is possible only after the owners pay a fine and submit an affidavit assuring they will not be used again for wrong purposes. “We want the owners to voluntarily stop use of residential houses for commercial purposes and nothing more,” he said but stressed the operation would continue in the coming days as well.

The CDA had on October 7 sealed 23 business outlets operating in residential houses in F-7 sector of the city. The sealed outlets include Tuscany Restaurant, Depilex Parlour, Royili Boutique, Kundan Boutique, Jugnoo’s Salon, Samsung showroom, Angeethi Restaurant, Yasraj Boutique, Fitness Club, Bistro Restaurant, Zefra Restaurant, Kitchen Cuisine, Entrouge, Tiffany and others.

Over 1,700 business outlets have been operating in residential sectors in Islamabad. The CDA has a history of starting and then abandoning proceedings against such trends.

The operation is being carried out by the Enforcement Directorate together with Building Control Section and other concerned organisations and in the presence of a CDA magistrate.

Separately, CDA has completed up-gradation and maintenance work on 14 water filtration plants out of the existing 38 filtration plants in Islamabad. CDA had earlier decided to upgrade all existing water filtration plants and allocated Rs16.67 million for the purpose.

Moreover, survey for identification of sites to install more water filtration plants particularly in densely populated residential areas and busy shopping centres of the city has also been completed and installation of new plants would start soon.