Contrary to the perception, over 90 per cent of the buyers of flats in One Constitution Avenue (OCA) Towers (launched around six years ago in the Federal capital), are hard working professionals, widowers, retirees and tax paying Pakistani citizens and overseas Pakistanis. 

These individuals had purchased these apartments with the assumption that a mega project, being built at the heart of the capital would have full government approvals. Furthermore, prior to the launch phase and following the construction, the project was extensively advertised in all major newspapers, while its marketing was carried out by one of the most reputed real-estate services firms in the world. 

When around 220 purchasers had completed almost 100 per cent of their instalment payments (approx. RS. 5.4 billion) and one of the towers was ready, the project was declared illegal. In July 2016 the buyers were handed over keys to their flats and started to move their belongings to their new residences. At the same time, there was a rumour spreading that Capital Development Authority (CDA) had “cordoned off the premises”, and matter was taken seriously when the news of lease cancellation of OCA Towers surfaced in national media. 

Purchasers were visibly panicked and shocked. They simply did not know who to blame. Some of them felt bitter towards the builder while others blamed CDA. All kinds of hypothesis started to emerge. One disturbing hypothesis was that OCA Towers were being built with purchasers’ money and now when the market valuation of the property had almost doubled. Hence the power’s wanted to make “their cut”. 

The Islamabad High Court has published its judgment on One Constitution Avenue case. They stated there were irregularities in auctioning process of land lease, vis-à-vis zoning bylaws in Islamabad were violated in the construction of One Constitution Avenue Towers. However the court, did proclaim that purchasers had been “robbed” of their due to regulatory failure of CDA and they needed to be fully compensated. 

The purchasers pointed finger at the builder for misleading them and not being transparent. One of the allegations against the builder is that he had approval for “serviced apartments” s and a “hotel”. He was able to completed and sold apartments, but delayed the construction of the hotel. Though from a financial perspective it makes sense, as the builder can raise funding upfront to construct the building. Then from the cash generated from apartment sales, the builder can use the cash to construct the hotel later on. On the contrary, if a hotel and/or serviced apartments are built first, funding the project becomes very expensive and risky. Of course, none of this can happen as long as CDA and the relevant ministries are working to serve the interests of tax payers. 

The 200 odd purchasers who can be categorized as hardworking professional, retirees, widowers and overseas Pakistanis, who are losing Rs.1.5 million daily in cost of invested capital. They are also undergoing persistent anxiety as their lives have been put on hold. They are spending more money in courts to get their due rights. 

It may take a very long time to follow the money trail and establish who did what wrong where and how. This is not fair to the purchasers as they will continue to suffer both financially and emotionally. They ask themselves whether it was wrong for them to invest in this project. Who is going to compensate them for their financial losses, if their rightful properties are taken away from them? Will Overseas Pakistanis ever invest their money in any future projects in Pakistan? These and many such questions remain unanswered almost ten months after CDA cancelled the lease of “One Constitution Avenue Towers” project. 

AHSAN AZAM,  

Islamabad, July 19.