The promise to provide adequate housing for the masses has always been a famous slogan for winning elections in Pakistan; however, delivery was non-existent. ZA Bhutto introduced it to the masses under the slogan Roti, Kapra aur Makaan (Feeding, dressing and housing) in the 1970s, Nawaz Sharif promoted it with the mantra of Apna Ghar (Own home) in his last term, and more recently, Imran Khan promised to build 5 million houses in 5 years. Bhutto inspired Indra Gandhi to use the same slogan in his election campaign in the 1970s. He also provided a title for a 1974 blockbuster by Amitabh Bachchan; however, he failed to make a tangible start to fulfilling his promise. Ironically, in the 2008 election Asif Ali Zardari again used the slogan in addition to gaining the sympathy of voters due to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and won a landslide victory with negligible personal political capital.
Nawaz Sharif knew the importance of this slogan in the eyes of electrolyte, so he propagated a theme that everyone becomes a homeowner. The Express Tribune reported in 2016 that after the government was formed in 2013, this was the least important issue for the Nawaz Sharifs cabinet, one of the reasons it never took off.
And here again, Imran Khan won the elections in 2018 by announcing the project to build 5 million housing units in 5 years as one of his flagship policies, drawing inspiration from previous governments. He has taken many concrete steps over the past three years to get that campaign promise off the ground. Some measures include removing obstacles to the acquisition of land for the Federal Government Employee Housing Foundation, reclaiming government land illegally occupied by politicians to build affordable housing, introducing a public partnership -private in the sector to improve efficiency, funding the Akuwat Foundation to provide interest-free loans. , geo-map land registers, reduce interest on real estate mortgages, force commercial banks to use a 5% portfolio for financing small houses, among other things allowing black money to enter construction.
With all of these measures in place, it always feels like the government is at the wrong tree, as few structural reforms have taken place to regain buyer confidence, and most policies are aimed at investors. Even today, private housing companies sell land they haven’t even bought yet.
Former PML-N deputy Hanif Abbasi in police custody. Photo file
The other major problem is the lack of compliance with the regulations suggested by the government. There are many examples of the exploitation of legal loopholes across the country. Nevertheless, a focus on our capital could give us an idea of what to expect in other regions. For example, Hanif Abbasi (ex-PLM-N deputy), with the help of his acolytes (the Societies Management Committee), sold land for 28 billion rupees to the Azad Jammu Kashmir Society (AJKS), which they never bought. Aqeel Anjum (ex-PML-N MNA) reduced the standard size of roads in E-11 during its development, and because of this corrupt practice, people have been killed recently in flash floods.
As a British Pakistani I became a victim, along with many others. We spent our lifelong savings buying land in AJKS ‘F-16, and after 17 years we’re still waiting for an inch of landscaped land to build our dream home. Many members have left this world, and a significant number of them are bedridden due to the stress caused by the F-16’s lack of development.
I want to propose a law that criminalizes the sale of land that is not in the possession of the company and a takeover of the F-16 sector by the government to develop it under the CDA as soon as possible. I have no doubt that Imran Khan has noble intentions and is an honest leader, but he will need to make these fundamental changes to laws regarding the construction industry in order to protect the consumer (the people) and not just the investor.
The writer is a British-Pakistani affected by corruption in sector F 16, Islamabad
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