Land mafia turns to social media, cable networks

Islamabad –  After a ban on advertising unapproved housing schemes in the national media, the land mafia has now turned to the social media and local cable networks to attract potential clients.

The local cable channels run by cable operators are now full of advertisements promising a “dream house” at an economical price.

Ammar Villas is one such housing schemes being advertised on local cable networks in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The confusing advertisements with tempting visuals highlight that the buyer can get 3 marla to one kanal plot at a price of Rs200,000 per marla with an option to pay in installments.

When asked if the project was approved by any civic body, representatives of the scheme claimed that they have over 600 kanal which did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Capital Development Authority or the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration.

“The H-17 Sector does not fall under the ICT or the CDA, that’s why we don’t need any permission,” a representative of the project said on the phone.

The representative insisted for a visit to the site but avoided to share further details about the management, financing or even the layout plan.

“Tahir Awan, a trusted name in the property sector and an authorized dealer of DHA and Bahria Town, is the owner of Ammar Villas,” she said.

Other housing scheme-related advertisements being run on cables, websites and mobile phones also make similar promises insisting an immediate down payment to secure a plot.

The housing sector in capital falls under the domain of the ICT and the CDA. The ICT bylaws bind every cooperative housing society to obtain prior approval from the authority before advertising the project.

Likewise, any housing project without the approval of authority is illegal and its marketing/advertisement without an NOC from the CDA is illegal and unauthorized.

If the CDA and ICT have clear laws on the subject, how come the advertisements of new schemes goes unchecked:

Insiders believe the land mafia pays a huge price to keep the authorities silent. “It is very convenient to advertise on cable or social media —rates of ads and bribe both are low as compared to national media,” an official said. He said that housing schemes on the social media also bribe administration through conventional channels —– a “patwari” of the area where the scheme is announced — the official said.

He said in case of fraudulent schemes, the patwari keeps the buyer in dark. No legal action is taken against the fraudsters until they collect money and run away.

He said that in some cases, the land mafia in connivance with patwaris transfer some plots to win the trust of the market after which land mafia collects money from the public as down payment or certain installments for a certain time and then they vanish.

Likewise, CDA officials are also given the lion’s share, who keeps a mum until the money is not pocketed by the mafia and after that, the authorities announce that scheme is fake or illegal.

Officials claim that most private housing projects in Islamabad are sham and the buyers end up in distress in one way or other.

Pakistan’s rapidly growing urban population is causing a severe housing shortage. The urban housing shortage is somewhere between 3.5 to 4 million units, most of which is in the economically weaker segments of the housing market.

Due to a massive migration from nearby areas, the housing demand in the capital is very high as compared to other cities. In the midst of the lust of the land mafia and property tycoons, the CDA has failed to come up with any new housing scheme during last several years — turning the housing shortage issue into a crisis.

Due to exorbitant prices in developed sectors and the absence of any new housing projects, the salaried class has no option but to approach these illegal housing societies in a hope to have their own boding.

Islamabad Chief Commissioner Zulfiqar Haider and ICT spokesperson Kamran Cheema did not respond to queries.

CDA officials promised to look into the matter and get back in due course of time.

“The CDA has declared over 100 housing schemes illegal and it issues sporadic warnings for the general public to refrain from making any booking or purchase plots in any un-authorized and illegal housing schemes,” a CDA official said adding that buyers must consult the authority about the legal status of the schemes before making transactions.

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