ISLAMABAD-The Capital Development Authority’s recent move to lease out 15 sites for rest areas in right of way of the Kashmir Highway and Islamabad Expressway is most likely to face legal bottlenecks because of poor planning behind the idea.

The city managers got approval from CDA board in its last meeting for leasing out 15 sites alongside aforementioned arteries to private companies for establishment of service areas having filling stations and convenience stores. A total of 15 sites have been identified including 10 on Islamabad Expressway and 5 on Kashmir Highway. According to proposal, an area measuring 6 kanals of land would be leased out to private companies for 10 years with a provision to further extend the agreement for 5 years.

However, the advocates of said proposal ignored the fact that the civic authority is restricted to do joint ventures, BOTs and Public Private Partnership according to CDA Ordinance, 1960.

“If CDA builds the service areas and rents them out then it will be a joint venture while if the leaseholder will build the service area with its own resources and hand over it to CDA after expiry of his agreement then it will be a form of Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) mode,” a senior officer of CDA commented, adding: “According to prevailing law, CDA cannot adopt both of the options and it shall have to go first for amendment in CDA ordinance.”   

When contacted, the Director Regional Planning Arshad Chohan who presented the said summary in CDA board was himself confused about the way of disposing these sites to private companies.

“We have initiated the summary in which identified the sites only on part of planning wing,” he said, maintaining: “I have nothing to do with its disposal, financial implications and legal aspects.”   

There is not a single example for renting out state land to private parties by CDA and even the Supreme Court of Pakistan had categorically barred CDA from doing joint ventures, BOTs etc. in a case of joint venture agreement signed by civic authority to develop the northern strip of E-11.  

Meanwhile, the number of service areas is itself questionable as according to national and international standards, the distance between two service areas should be at least a hundred kilometres. However, according to CDA’s proposal there will be a service area after every two kilometres. A senior officer who wished not to be named said it is quite necessary to launch such projects for revenue generation but they should be well-conceived and well planned.

“CDA should first go for necessary amendments in its ordinance and after that come up with a comprehensive business plan otherwise this proposal will be of no use,” he said, adding; “If CDA will go with the proposal, it will face embarrassment only as the initiative is most likely to be challenged in courts by those who will be aggrieved.”