Twenty-year-year-old Maqsoom Chaudhry used to run a small photocopying shop, A-One Computers, near Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. Many students used to come to him to get their notes photocopied or buy stationery.
On December 13, he locked up his shop and left for his village. Two days later, he received a frantic phone call telling him that his shop, along with 24 others, have been demolished in an “anti-encroachment” drive by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
All the equipment inside his shop—three photocopy machines, two laptops, and some stationery supplies—was destroyed too. He didn’t even know that the authority was going to conduct this drive.
The CDA, in a press release, said it had “demolished several illegal constructions and encroachments established on the state land”. The operation was carried out by the Enforcement Directorate, ICT Administration, and Islamabad Police.
Chaudhry, however, decided to fight for his rights. He and his lawyer, Imaan Mazari-Hazir, met the chief commissioner on December 20, registered their complaint against the CDA and asked for compensation.
“This was the fastest route to take for
Maqsoom’s case, which is why we took it first instead of going to court,” his
lawyer told SAMAA Digital.
The chief commissioner sent their case to the deputy commissioner, who then ordered an inquiry into it and appointed Assistant Commissioner (Rural) Abdullah Mehmood as the inquiry officer on December 26, 2019 with Advocate Umer Gilani as amicus curiae or ‘friend of the court’ to provide legal help.
The CDA contended that Chaudhry was an “encroacher” with no valid licence, adding that they had placed a notice about the operation three days before the operation. This was challenged by Mazari-Hazir, who argued that Chaudhry did hold a licence but it did not have his name as he was only 16 years old when he obtained it.
An inquiry report, which was submitted on January 21, claimed that Chaudhry was not running a licensed shop but still had certain rights under Section 49C of the CDA Ordinance, 1961.
CDA did issue a notice in the newspaper but no
personal notice was issued either in [Chaudhry’s] name or in the name of his
enterprise,” the report reads, adding that this is against the law. “The notice
must be for a reasonable time period within which the ‘encroacher’ can
voluntarily remove the encroachment,” it adds.
The inquiry officer has recommended that
proceedings should be initiated against CDA officials who failed to serve
notice to Chaudhry, adding that a “competent authority” will decide
compensation. He said that the CDA should also develop SOPs over the manner in
which they conduct these operations.
“This is the first time
the government itself has found the CDA in violation of the CDA Ordinance,”
said Mazari-Hazir. “The requirement for notice is usually ignored when it
concerns alleged encroachers.”
a result of this inquiry report, operations in Islamabad were halted on Tuesday
because no notice was served to the shop owners, she added.
CDA chairperson had assured Chaudhry and if the development authority had
violated the law by not issuing notice then we will be given compensation,
are meeting the CDA chairperson, who is also the chief commissioner, today to
discuss the order and finalise this compensation issue,” she said. “We hope
that he will honour the commitment he made a month ago.”