LAHORE - There’s huge bustle at a plot of just over one kanal, located in the middle of homes, surrounded by heavy walls, with surveillance cameras installed outside its main gate and at corner of the front wall.

Small vehicles, pick-ups and sometimes even small trucks pick and deliver several goods related to water technologies create hazards for the residents but the owner seldom does care of it. “I’ve been running the business at this place since I bought this house almost five years ago,” says Ashfaq Ahmad, with a plastic smile on his face. The owner of the house and a godown has been running his business for years with name “Flomatic Water Technologies” and slogan “Your Single Source Supplier” at 62 and 88 Rasool Park, Shama Road, Samanabad.

On March 3, the Lahore High Court passed an order on a petition filed by Irfan Jahangir, who took an initiative to challenge commercial use of a residential building. The court directed the deputy commissioner to look into the matter and decide it in accordance with law.

Following the DC orders, the authorities held an inquiry into the matter and found out that the building had been used purely for commercial purpose - which is illegal for being in residential area under the law. Interestingly, the house owner despite court orders and inquiry of the deputy commissioner is still running his business, claiming that he is not the only one who is using his building for the commercial purposes. “The whole city is doing this,” he told The Nation. “There are many, many others who are doing the same [business] in my area and in the rest of the city,” says Ahmad while sticking to his stance. He says he will also go to the court to challenge the order as the litigation against him seems personal.

“Nobody is annoyed with me due to my business in the area except the petitioner,” Ahmad stated.

“Many of the neighbours have given me their consent in writing to run the business and I have their written statements along with their CNICs.”He gives justification of his business stating that his neighbours are happy and that’s it.

However, Muhammad Shoaib, one of the neighbours, held he has several times requested Ashfaq Ahmad to stop business in residential area and approached different forums against him but in vain. “I approached the complaint cell of Punjab CM to stop him (Ashfaq) from such illegal business activities in residential area but nobody cares,” said Shoaib, with disappointment visible on his face.

He points out the wall between his home and the building of the disputed business, saying that “men who work at the factory peep into his house and they have made trouble for his family,” According to Excise and Taxation (E&T) official, there are hundreds of buildings which are being used for commercial purpose in Lahore’s residential areas. The official, while speaking on the condition of anonymity, said laws were made many years later while the buildings are very old, “so it is not possible to stop all of them from commercial use”. “It is only Islamabad, the capital, where the commercial buildings and residential areas have been bifurcated,” says the officer. But in Lahore, he added, it seems quite difficult because many influential people have constructed such buildings in residential areas.

For a five-marla building, the officer planning of the concerned town will decide the issues while for building plan of 10-marla structures, the MO Planning is the responsible officer, a spokesman of deputy commissioner told The Nation on Wednesday.

For the buildings beyond 10 marlas, a building committee comprising Mayor, Deputy Mayor, CEO Metropolitan, MO Infrastructure and MO Planning has been made which will decide their issues. About the matter in question, the spokesperson said, the deputy commissioner has directed MCL and Municipal Officer (Regulations) to take immediate action against Ali Asghar and Ashfaq Ahmad, the men who are running business of Flomatic Water Technologies at 62 and 88, buildings in Rasool Park - the residential area.

“Now it is the duty of Municipal Officer (Regulations) to comply with this order,” he added.

MO (Regulations) Ali Abbas Bukhari was unavailable for comments despited repeated calls.