ISLAMABAD - Further tough times wait ahead for the diplomatic relations between the US and Pakistan as the Capital Development Authority's (CDA) revised building by-laws for Diplomatic Enclave just need a final nod of the prime minister to 'prevent' the American mission from constructing its new Embassy Complex.

Sensing the gravity of situation, the civic agency has conveniently passed the buck to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who is the ultimate authority in this regard. And, it remains to be seen if Raja withstands American pressure on the 'sweet will' of the powerful military establishment or succumbs to it the way Pakistan has bowed down on a number of issues involving Pak-US relationship.

The summery containing revised building by-laws - mainly aimed to restrict the approved height of the under-construction US Embassy Complex - is now with the office of the Prime Minister for his endorsement. "The Cabinet Division has recently sought comments from the Law Ministry over the summery prepared and approved by the CDA Board in this regard. The ministry has also endorsed it. And now it is with the office of the prime minister," a top official of the Authority confirmed to The Nation.

As per the new laws, US authorities will be bound to revise the compound's original layout plan by limiting the height of under-construction facility up to ground plus five storeys rather than the approved ground plus seven storeys. There would certainly be another storm in the cup of Pak-US relations, if the primer accords approval to this brainchild of country's premier spy agency, which had earlier suggested the city managers to revise civic agency's by-laws pertaining to the height of buildings in the Diplomatic Enclave.

In recent past, the spy agency raised several objections at the US Embassy building plan. In a letter to the CDA chairman, the agency had sought explanation from him over the matter. "One could easily keep an eye on important and sensitive government instalments including the President House, the PM Minister House and the Parliament from such high-rise building," the national press had quoted the content of the letter. The agency had also directed the city managers to immediately limit the height of the embassy complex by revising its by-laws for buildings in the area.

Current by-laws allow construction of ground plus seven storeys building in Diplomatic Enclave, with covered area of 300 per cent of the plot area, 40 per cent ground coverage for ground floor, open space of 30 feet each on front and back while 20 feet on side areas. But according to new by-laws, the CDA would allow construction of only ground plus five storeys with 50 per cent ground coverage instead of currently enforced 40 per cent.

Earlier, in January 2012, a committee comprising CDA officials and representatives from the Planning Commission, Emergency and Disaster Management, Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners had approved the US Embassy site plan and consequently the CDA had issued no objection certificate to the US authorities. The CDA approved construction over an area of 1.73 million sq ft while the allowable Floor Area Ratio area is 5.627 sq ft.

"The CDA had contacted the concerned officials of the spy agency before awarding NOC to the US authorities, but, at that time, they (spy agency) raised no objection," said the official, adding and now when construction of Embassy is in progress as per rules and regulations "they have directed us to revise building by-laws". "At this point, if we ask the US authorities that they could not go beyond ground plus five storeys, they (Americans) would take us to International Court of Law," the official apprehended.

According to a note of the US Department of State, Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) and Bureau of Administration had awarded $699 million contract to build a new Embassy Compound in Islamabad to BL Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama. The under-construction facility would consist of new office building, new office annex, Marine Security Guard Quarters, perimeter wall, support annex, general services office, and permanent housing. The complex will be constructed on 35 acres and the project has been divided into several phases with expected completion in 2016.

Syed Mustafain Kazmi, CDA Member Planning and Design, who also oversee the affairs of Directorate of Building Control, told The Nation that usually CDA Board's approval is considered as final decision when it comes to amendment(s) in by-laws. "But in this particular case, where a dispute could emerge, the CDA wrote to the prime minister," he said. When asked how the authority would persuade US authorities over the issue he said, "Everyone is bound to obey the law of the land." The US Embassy Spokesperson Rian Harris said so far the Embassy had not received any such document from Pakistani authorities, adding that she would check the issue with the quarters concerned and would share the details on Tuesday (today).