City development authorities are one of the key institutions in urban development and planning in South Asian cities. Pakistan and India share a history and have experienced a similar trend of Town Improvement Trusts established by the British transforming into Development Authorities. Both these forms of institutions had a similar mandate – to improve the living standards in the city through planned development.
Development authorities, in particular, were envisioned to undertake comprehensive and integrated master planning in the face of rapid urbanization that its predecessor failed to do so because of its institutional set up as a Trust. In this write-up, I focus on one such urban development institution in Lahore, Pakistan, namely the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) which has come under immense criticism in recent years. In order to understand the urban sprawl of Lahore and the complementary planned development, one needs to understand the institutions that are propelling this form of urban planning.
Read more: Urbanization: Local government system to the rescue?
The unequal development of Lahore
I aim to understand the unequal development in Lahore through the lens of an institutional framework. The premise of my analysis is that even though the forms of institutions that come about and the way they evolve over time are influenced by the broader political and economic trends, it is the urban development institutions that dictate what kind of policies under its purview are produced, hence affecting the urban form. I argue that LDA was a continuation of the Lahore Improvement Trust in many ways, with a supposedly more comprehensive approach to planning, and it faced similar challenges as its predecessor and failed to achieve one of the objectives this parallel institutional structure set out to achieve: providing housing for the low-income groups.
In my analysis, I highlight the role of legislation and political influence on LDA’s operations. Political leadership and influence differentiate it from LIT and it can be its greatest strength if it is leveraged in the right way. In order to understand LDA’s challenges and how these can be overcome, I analyse the following in this thesis: 1) why was LDA established and to what extent it was a continuation of its predecessor 2) how has LDA’s policies evolved over the years and why, and 3) what are the challenges to cater to low income population for LDA and what are the ways in which it can achieve them?.
Read more: Humans of Islamabad suffer due to flawed urban planning
Overview of Lahore Development Authority
Lahore Development Authority (LDA) was established in 1975 during the first democratic government in Pakistan. It was created under the legislation of the Punjab Assembly when it passed the LDA Act in March, assented by the Governor of Punjab on 3rd April 1975 (Lahore Development Authority Act 1975). LDA is a financially autonomous body under the Secretary of Housing and Physical Planning of Punjab. The rationale behind this Act was that “it was expedient in the public interest to establish a comprehensive system of metropolitan planning development in order to improve quality of life in the metropolitan area of Lahore” (LDA Act 1975) The Act emphasized an integrated metropolitan and regional approach for continuous planning and development – and idea of regional development that was borrowed from the West. In terms of its organizational structure the Chairman of the Authority, at its inception was the Commissioner of Lahore (World Bank, 1980).
The Authority included 9 members in addition to the chairmen of Municipal Committees, the Managing Directors of the independent agencies that LDA had the power to create under its board such as WASA and the Director General/Chief executive was a senior civil servant (LDA Act 1975). LDA has a number of key areas that it works on, including Katchi Abadis, Hidden Properties, Estate Management, Land Development, Commercialization and Housing (Lahore Development Authority, Government of Punjab). Each of these areas has a director and all of these come under the Urban Development Wing. There is also a section of coordination and implementation (Lahore Development Authority, Government of Punjab).
Read more: Urbanization in Pakistan
Despite an attempt to bring elected representatives of the Lahore Municipal Corporation on the board for better coordination, this aim remained unfulfilled, partly because of the fact that the Authority was largely comprised of senior civil servants/bureaucrats. However, the seeds for turning LDA into a bureaucratic institution weren’t sown merely by the number of bureaucrats on the board but this was partly due to the larger political context of Punjab and the rest of Pakistan as well, where local governments were barely allowed to thrive. Moreover, the initial bureaucratic nature of LDA was also a legacy of its predecessors, the Lahore Improvement Trust.
Although it is true that locally elected politicians didn’t have the power and LDA lacked local knowledge from the grassroots level, politicians at the Provincial government level, such as the Chief Minister Punjab was the Chairman of LDA in later years and had great influence. Changes in who headed LDA depended on changes made in the constitution under military or democratic regimes and in the local government system. Even after the devolution plan of 2001 in which local governments were greatly empowered, LDA managed to stay under the provincial government rather than the city district government after Lahore Development Authority Ordinance 2002 was passed (Lahore Development Authority Ordinance 2002).
Although LDA wasn’t responsive to the housing crisis in the city it was responsive to the requirements of the projects it undertook, demonstrating the flexibility and power that is required to tilt the system in its favor. Its initial projects were geared towards providing housing to the low income groups, however, “affordability” of plots was defined as the size of the plot, not taking into account speculative markets and the rise in value once development happens. Similarly, even though LDA’s housing societies’ standards stipulate that 20% of plots in the societies need to be 5 marlas or below but doesn’t ensure that the value of these plots remains affordable for the low income. Moreover, in recent years, LDA’s housing projects reflect misplaced priorities, propelled by the political interest of real estate politicians.
Read more: Urbanization and declining agriculture: How to balance them off?
Historical background of Lahore Development Authority
The institutional transition from the colonial Improvement Trusts to Development Authorities isn’t unique to Lahore or Pakistan. This was a trend that was seen in South Asia in many cities. The idea of “development” in response to the crisis of the 1940s in postcolonial states was an attempt to break away from the colonial era, in which development was focused on strengthening the colonial rule (Legg, 2006). It was the urgency to deal with the housing crisis spurred by migration after the Partition of 1947 that the need for institutionalized planning was felt more. However, the failure of LIT to respond adequately to the crisis is part of the story of why the need for a development authority was felt.
I argue that LIT and LDA were not very different from each other. Scholars argue that it was the nature of the trust that inhibited its ability to expand and invest its profits in more projects (Mehra, 2013). Although this is true and LDA can be seen as more financially autonomous as a corporate body than the Improvement Trust, it needs to be noted that LIT was making a profit and despite being a trust that aimed to work on no profit, no loss (Mehra, 2013), 58% of LIT’s plots were 1 Kanal and larger, catering to high income groups (World Bank, 1980).
Read more: Matiari-Lahore transmission line to boost Pakistan economy: China
Moreover, although the Town Improvement Trust Act 1922 doesn’t mention that the trust will be responsible for undertaking “comprehensive planning”, it was engaged in the expansion of the city and in handling the high density of the inner city by building housing societies in the surrounding areas (Mehra, 2013; Malik, 2014). However, these housing societies were based on a “colonial design” that catered to high income groups and neglected the local context of residents of Lahore for whom segregated land uses were an inconvenience (Malik, 2014). We see a similar pattern in LDA’s most recent project that aims to build a self-contained utopia for the elite.
I argue that the three main reasons why LIT was disbanded and LDA was established were: 1) LIT was a trust which meant that it was dependent on loans from the provincial government and couldn’t indulge in commercial or profit making enterprises 11 to invest in other projects, hence a corporate body was seen as an institutional structure that would be more suitable for fulfilling these objectives. Although it is argued in the literature that LIT had difficulties in acquiring land for its projects (Malik, 2014), it should be noted that the Punjab Land (Housing) Acquisition Act 1973, according to which provided more favorable ways to compensation for land acquisition, was applicable to improvement trusts as well.
Hence, to say that LIT’s difficulties to do so was one of the reasons why a land development authority was established would be incorrect. It is, however, true that LDA was responsive and was able to influence policy and legislation to enable it to acquire land more effectively and efficiently as we see from the details of its later projects. This, however, is not to say that it didn’t run into difficulties or bottlenecks. Another argument is that LIT failed to provide housing stock for low income groups and hence LDA was established to achieve this objective.
Read more: Pakistan-India back channel talks suspended after Lahore blast
However, it should be noted that LDA Act 1975 doesn’t explicitly highlight this objective. It was in 1980 when the World Bank highlighted the causes of the difficulty for LDA to provide for low income groups, and recommendations to overcome this (World Bank, 1980). The Lahore Urban Development and Traffic Study (1980) does highlight that LDA’s projects in its initial years provided smaller plot sizes than LIT had done. The affordability of plots was measured by their size, not from their price, a problematic approach that is still present in LDA’s projects and housing standards today.
LDA has failed to provide enough housing stock for low income groups in Lahore. Hence, LDA has run into similar issues as LIT had. The major difference between the two was that LDA is politically more influenced than LIT was, which was a bureaucratic institution. So this begs the question of why LDA was established in the first place? Based on the literature review of LIT and other improvement trusts in India including Delhi Improvement Trust and Bombay Improvement Trust, we can ascertain that LDA came as a result of increased pressures of urbanization and LIT’s failure to plan for the post-partition violence and resettlement.
The need to have more regulation and better planning instruments was felt, which could be achieved by comprehensive planning of the newly urbanized areas of the Lahore district. In the next section, I will go over the details of the difficulties faced by LIT and the influence of Western concepts of urban and regional planning, which is apparent in the “comprehensive approach” to the first master plan of greater Lahore.
The Lahore Improvement trust
Besides the objective to carry out integrated metropolitan planning and development, the need for LDA was also felt due to the inadequacy of LIT to provide housing, a crisis that exacerbated after East Pakistan, present day Bangladesh, broke away from West Pakistan. The figures show that from 1947 to 1975, LIT developed an average of 302 plots per year, and out of the total number of plots developed by LIT, 58% were of 1 Kanal and above, hence catering to high income groups, whereas 31% were of 7 to 10 marlas for the middle income groups and only 11% were intended to be for low income groups (World Bank, 1980).
Read more: After Lahore Fort, PM Khan orders preservation of all historical sites
One of the main reasons for LIT’s slow delivery was the tedious task of land acquisition under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 which was used for the most part of LIT’s history until the Punjab (Housing) Land Acquisition Act was enacted in 1973 that was later used by LDA till 1985 when it was repealed and the Land Acquisition Act 1894 was reinstated (Malik, 2014; Qadeer, 1996). However, one needs to be cognizant that after 1985, LDA was operating under the Land Acquisition Act 1894 as well but LDA was able to circumvent the Act and adopt alternative ways of land acquisition along with the DHA model in its most recent projects (Lahore Development Authority, 2013).
This highlights LDA’s responsiveness and ability to emend policies to facilitate its processes and be able to navigate around already instated rules and regulations with the help of political influence. This highlights the “fluidity” of legislation for LDA. Laws are followed as long as they cater to its needs, and when they don’t, LDA has adopted other mechanisms. I argue that this has been possible due to the activism and influence of Chief Minister Punjab. LDA hasn’t been dictated by law but it is the institution that has tweaked legislation directly related to its projects.
However, these very legislations have also led Chief Minister Punjab and LDA to court cases when it hasn’t followed its own rules down to the letter, as this happened in the case of the Punjab Land Development Company’s Ashiana Housing Scheme case when it violated the Punjab Private Pubic Partnership Act 2014 (“Timeline in development of Ashiana Housing scam”, 2018). This case also highlights how the elected Chief Minister Punjab used LDA as a means to favor his political allies. This is apparent when the Ashiana Housing Scheme was handed over to the Lahore Development Authority and LDA then awarded the contract for development to a proxy of the Paragon City, Private Limited, which is a company associated with the former Railway Minister of PML-N, Khawaja Saad Rafique (“Timeline of development of Ashiana Housing scam”, 2018).
Read more: Who will be new Chief Justice of Lahore High Court(LHC)?
After LIT’s performance in providing developed plots to people, there was a greater awareness and a shift in policy when LDA was created to better utilize the public investment to cater to lower income groups. This is also highlighted in the early projects undertaken by LDA (World Bank, 1980). Moreover, LIT’s capacity to provide urban utilities, for example, water supply under its water wing was inadequate and it was taken over by WASA when LDA was created (World Bank, 1974). LDA’s creation is traced back to the Lahore Improvement Trust that was established in 1936 under British rule according to the Town Improvement Trust Act 1922.
This was one of the networks of town improvement trusts established in large cities of India and the rationale behind the creation of this institution was to focus on urban planning for the future development of cities that were rapidly expanding after the Industrial Revolution (Malik, 2014). The establishment of a Town Improvement Trust aimed to separate day to day municipal affairs from urban development for the future. The LIT was a semi-autonomous agency and after 1940 the Lahore Municipal Corporation implemented and monitored some of the regulations introduced by LIT (Malik, 2014).
From 1954 to 1970 the One Unit Policy was in place in West Pakistan, eliminating the four provinces and during 1957-1967 West Pakistan had undergone a lot of administrative changes. By 1967 both Lahore Municipal Corporation and Lahore Improvement Trust were responsible to the Ministry of Basic Democracies and Local Government (World Bank, 1974). The area under LIT’s jurisdiction was 128 square miles and included Lahore Municipal Corporation, Cantonment Board and West Pakistan Railway depots area as well. LIT performed schemes of land acquisition, housing, slum clearance and general public works as well as providing sanitary facilities to the developed land (World Bank, 1974). LIT’s organizational structure is comprised of eight trustees on its board.
These included five members appointed by the Provincial Government, namely the Chairman of the Board who was a senior government civil servant, i.e. Deputy Commissioner of Lahore, chairman of Lahore Municipal Corporation and three senior civil servants, the remaining three were elected from councilors of the Lahore Municipal Corporation (Malik, 2014). In February 1967, municipal facilities of water, sewerage and drainage were handed over to the Lahore Improvement Trust from the Lahore Municipal Corporation because the latter had incurred financial deficits due to its inefficient operations, charging inadequate rates, poor billing and collection and because a large chunk of the water produced was supplied free of charge.
Read more: Security guard performs surgery in Lahore as patient dies
When in 1967 Government of Pakistan requested development credit from the International Development Association (IDA) to improve and expand the water, sewerage and drainage system of Lahore Municipal area, that was still using a system that had been in place since 1937, it was noted that LIT would require outside assistance in terms of operation and organization to maintain municipal utility that had recently been transferred to them, and to deal with the organizational inefficiencies that came with this transfer (World Bank, 1974). LIT’s revenue structure included grants from the provincial government and its cost recovery mechanism was to sell developed land to private individuals. Until 1967 LIT wasn’t responsible for maintenance of sanitary facilities and instead would transfer these to the LMC for maintenance free of encumbrances (World Bank, 1974).
LIT was working in two separate legal jurisdictions – one of the Punjab Municipal Act 1911 and the Punjab Improvement Trust Act 1922. The former one was seen as a more “restrictive planning” where LIT merely played the role of an advisory body while the latter was a model of “positive planning” where the LIT had the power to acquire land rather than maintaining or improving existing built up area or that of slum clearance (Malik, 2014). In the Punjab Improvement Trust of 1922, the themes that are focused on are street schemes, improving existing building structures and providing housin8g schemes for all classes of society including the poor and industrial workers (Punjab Town Improvement Act 1922).
However, examining the structure of financing for LIT reveals that it became increasingly difficult for the institution to develop projects for the poor. In terms of financing, LIT’s nature as a Trust was the biggest impediment to its operations. As a Trust it depended on annual loans from the Provincial Government at a 2% interest rate that was higher than a non-governmental loan and to be able to extract loans from the Treasury per its need required an amendment in the Punjab Improvement Trust Act (Malik, 2014). This is one of the major reasons why the Trust focused on acquiring land in order to finance its operations through land appreciation without little effort went into the development work (Malik, 2014).
In the existing literature, it has been argued, however, that the planned housing schemes built by LIT failed to take into account the cultural context of Lahore and the pattern of indigenous housing development already in place, resulting in a separation of residential and commercial areas – something that was inconvenient for residents (Malik, 2014). Scholars also argue that LIT’s downfall came about as a result of its inability to tackle with the challenges of post-Partition reconstruction and rehabilitation (Malik, 2014; Groote & De Jonge, 1988).
Read more: Lahore High Court granted bail to PML-N’s Khawaja Asif
However, LIT’s waning importance as an institution for urban development is apparent in the fact that LIT and Lahore Municipal Corporation were both absent in developing the first Master Plan of Lahore in 1966, which was undertaken by the Punjab government under the recommendation of the Second Five Year Plan (1960-1965) The two institutions were deemed to be inept to take up this task, however, they were assigned to implement the plan in their own jurisdictions (Master Plan Project Office Punjab Pakistan, 1973). This highlights that LIT as an institution was neither intended to undertake master planning as we know it today neither was it equipped to do so (Punjab Town Improvement Trust 1922).
However, it needs to be highlighted here that the ideals of comprehensive planning were present in pre-Partition era when British planners in the 1920s and 1930s emphasized the need for it as opposed to piecemeal planning in the subcontinent (Mehra, 2013). Moreover, the Lahore Improvement Trust was involved in planning for the expansion of the city and it was establishing housing societies, as LDA is currently doing.
Moreover, LIT’s failure to provide housing for the poor was apparent and the need to introduce additional land policies to arrest speculation was proposed by the Master Plan where it emphasized the need to enable the government to provide housing and other community amenities at an affordable cost. One of the proposals to limit rising land values was to authorize LIT to acquire land or declare its intention to acquire land for development schemes and other allied public purposes, in advance of framing detailed schemes to arrest land speculation (Master Plan Project Office, Punjab Pakistan, 1973).
Read more: Maryam Nawaz gets more relief from Lahore High Court
The Lahore Development Authority Act 1975 at a glance
The Lahore Development Authority Act 1975 (Act No XXX of 1975) was promulgated to “provide for the constitution of the Lahore Development Authority and according to its preamble WHEREAS it is expedient in the public interest to establish a comprehensive system of metropolitan planning and development in order to improve the quality of life in the metropolitan area of Lahore, establish an integrated metropolitan and regional development approach and a continuing process of planning and development, to ensure optimum utilization of resources, economical and effective utilization of land and to evolve policies and programmes relating to the improvement of the environment of housing, industrial development, traffic, transportation, health, education, water supply, sewerage, drainage, solid waste disposal and matters connected therewith and incidental thereto”.
The Lahore Development Authority Act 1975 provides for the Establishment of the Lahore Development Authority (Section 4 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be a Vice Chairman of the Authority (Section 4-A of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be qualifications of the member of the Authority (Section 5 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be the powers and functions of the Authority (Section 6 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority shall convey its meetings (Section 7 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be appointment and a term of office of the Director General of the Authority (Section 8 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975)
There shall be resignation or removal of the Director General of the Authority (Section 9 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be the delegation by the Authority to the Director General (Section 10 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be the appointment of officers and employees of the Authority (Section 11, 11-A, 11-B of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be a committee which the Authority may constitute such as financial, technical, and advisory (Section 12 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be the preparation of schemes by the Authority (Section 13 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be the modification of schemes by the Authority (Section 14 of the Lahore Development Authority), the Authority shall have the power to give directions (Section 15 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975).
Read more: UNESCO declares Lahore the City of Literature
The Authority shall have the power to execute any scheme (Section 16 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority shall be guided by the directions given by the Government (Section 17 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority may declare any locality within the area to be a controlled area (Section 18 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority shall have the power to act as a local government (Section 19 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority shall have the power to remove the source of environmental pollution (Section 20 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority shall undertake beautification of the area (Section 21 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the authority shall be deemed to be a ‘Local Authority’ for the purpose of borrowing money (Section 22 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975).
The Authority shall have the power to levy betterment fee (Section 23 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority may make any order regarding the assessment of betterment fee of an area (Section 24 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall a liability to acquisition (Section 25 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority shall be deemed to be an “Official Development Agency” and all schemes development by the Authority shall be deemed to be “Housing Schemes” (Section 26 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be a Lahore Development Authority Fund (Section 27 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), with the consent of the District Government and the Provincial Government adequate funds may be raised by the Authority (Section 28 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority shall have the exclusive right to use tube-wells (Section 29 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975).
The Authority shall maintain proper accounts and all other relevant records and prepare annual statement of accounts, (Section 30 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority shall prepare a Budget every year (Section 31 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the accounts of the Authority shall be audited annually (Section 32 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), whoever contravenes any provisions of this Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or fine or with both (Section 33 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), Whoever wilfully causes damage or allows damage to be caused to any property which vests in the Authority, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both (Section 34 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act except on a compliant in writing made by an officer authorized for the purpose, by the Authority (Section 35 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975).
Read more: Lahore among New York Times ‘dream destination to love in 2021’
The Authority shall prepare an annual report for every year of its activities (Section 36 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), any sum due to the Authority from, or any sum wrongly paid by the Authority to, any person under this Act, shall be recoverable as arrears of land revenue (Section 37 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), any conversion of property to a different use or purpose without the previous approval of the Authority shall be punishable with a fine which may extend to rupees five hundred per day from the date of its conversion till the default continues or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with both (Section 38 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority may eject any unauthorized person in unauthorized occupation of any land or property vested in the Authority (Section 39 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975).
The Authority may by an order in writing require the owner, occupier or user to remove, demolish or alter the structure, building or work (Section 40 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Members, Officers, Employees of the Authority shall be public servants (Section 41 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), No prosecution, suit shall lie against the Authority (Section 42 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), No Court shall have jurisdiction to question the legality of anything done or any action taken under this Act, by or at the instance of the Authority (Section 43 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Government may make rules for the purposes of this Act (Section 44 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Authority may make regulations as may be necessary (Section 45 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), the Act of 1975 shall prevail over all other laws (Section 46 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be a provision regarding succession (Section 47 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975), there shall be a provision with regard to savings and repeal (Section 48 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975).
Read more: 50 electric buses to be plied on Lahore roads
A judicial perspective
The provisions of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975 have been subject to judicial scrutiny before the Superior Courts of Pakistan. Some of the instances whereby the Act of 1975 has been put to challenge are stated as under:
In the case titled as Water & Sanitation Agency, Lahore through M.D Versus Lottee Akhtar Beverages (Pvt) Ltd Lahore and others reported as 2019 SCMR 1146 the provisions of Sections 28 and 29 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975 were challenged before a Full Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan which was pleased to hold that “—-Art. 184(3)—Lahore Development Authority Act (XXX of 1975), Ss. 28 & 29—High Court assuming jurisdiction over a lis sub-judice before the Supreme Court—Judicial impropriety—Judicial restraint, the exercise of—Water tariff—During proceedings of a suo motu case the Supreme Court gave directions to charge and collect water tariff at the rate of Rs.1/- per liter from industrial units drawing piped or ground water used in the production of bottled water or beverages.
Relevant Development Authority by way of impugned notification levied water tariff in compliance with directions of the Supreme Court Respondents, who were aggrieved of the water tariff levied by way of the impugned notification, challenged the same before the High Court. High Court suspended the impugned notification—Held, that instead of bringing their objections before the Implementation Bench of the Supreme Court, the respondents chose to file Constitutional petitions before the High Court to express their misgivings—Any flaws or deficiencies in the steps taken by the Provincial Governments for the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s directions were to be highlighted in the proceedings before the Implementation Bench of the Supreme Court.
Read more: Two officials suspended over Allama Iqbal’s sculpture controversy in Lahore
By entertaining and adjudicating a challenge to the impugned notification, the High Court had assumed jurisdiction over a lis that was sub-judice before the Supreme Court. Such a course of action clearly offended the settled norms of judicial propriety and comity, which had to be disapproved. Respondents’ simultaneously resorting to a parallel remedy before the High Court indicated an attempt to undermine the judicial process by sidestepping the express directions given by the Supreme Court. Such a course was invalid for inviting conflicting opinions and bypassing the hierarchy of judicial fora. Supreme Court observed that it contemplated initiating appropriate action against the respondents but in the end decided to exercise judicial restraint. Case was adjourned with certain directions for devising mechanisms for collection of water tariff”.
High Court, therefore, had the jurisdiction under Art. 199 of the Constitution to examine the proprietary of the impugned action taken against the employee under the Punjab Employees Efficiency, Discipline and Accountability Act, 2006.
It could not be dealt with and its growth and development promoted in a manner different from other parts of the Province. Such a classification was not per se unreasonable— the Government must not be compelled to follow a cookie cutter approach or else to suffer judicial condemnation. Where a statute was not ex facie repugnant to Fundamental Rights under the Constitution but was capable of being so administered, it could not be struck down unless the party challenging it could prove that it had been actually so administered—Petitioners, in the present case, could not establish as to how the Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975 had been administered in a way that was repugnant to the Fundamental Rights under the Constitution, thus, there was no basis for the High Court to strike down the provisions of the Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975.
Provisions of Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975, and Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 had to be read in harmony Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975, was to be regarded as an enabling statute; it allowed LDA to act in support of and to complement the Local Government in the exercise of its functions and responsibilities—Many situations could arise which might warrant LDA to work in consultation with or support the Local Government within the purview of Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 e.g. where the Local Government was unable to act because of a lack of resources or capacity, or where the project was of such a nature that it spilled over from the territory of one Local Government to another or where the size of the project was beyond the financial capacity of the Local Government to execute, the LDA could step in and work with the Local Government.
Read more: Human Rights Ministry urges University of Lahore to reinstate expelled students
Said situations were not exhaustive and time may throw up other situations and create circumstances which may warrant action to be taken by LDA in consultation with the Local Government—When harmoniously construed, there was no conflict between the provisions of the Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975, and Punjab Local Government Act, 2013. High Court in its judgment also ignored the fact that elections to Local Government in the Province had not taken place as yet, and, thus, Local Government did not exist. Developmental work, even if it fell within the domain of the Local Government, could not have been abandoned and all projects brought to a standstill simply because the Local Government did not exist.
Even if functions were assumed to be within the exclusive domain of the Local Government and could only be exercised by it to the exclusion of everyone else, even then, given the present ground reality, the Provincial Government could not be taken to task for carrying out development work. Further, the High Court gave no reason why there is a vacuum (due to the non-existence of a Local Government), LDA and/or Provincial Government could not carry out development works, thus, it was not at all necessary to interfere in the Project in question. In the vacuum resulting from the absence of Local Government institutions, the initiation, approval and execution of the disputed Project by the Provincial Government.
Through its agency, LDA, was valid Supreme Court directed that Project in question may accordingly be completed subject to provision of additional facilities for pedestrians, inter alia, including road crossing and passes at intervals of one-kilometer or less along with the project road distance; that new project falling within the domain of Lahore Metropolitan Corporation for approval or execution shall not be undertaken by the Provincial Government or its agency without prior consultation and consent unless such consent was withheld without justified reasons in respect of the project; that Provincial Government was under a duty to establish a harmonious working relationship with an elected Local Government wherein respect was accorded to the views and decisions of the latter—Appeal was partly allowed accordingly.
Read more: Lahore High Court accepts Shehbaz Sharif’s plea, disposes of petition
Punjab Local Government Act (XVIII of 2013), Preamble—Constitution of Pakistan, Art. 140A—Over-riding effect of provisions of Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975—Scope and Constitutionality—Section 46 of the Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975 gave its provisions overriding effect, however, such over-riding effect would apply only in the event of a conflict or inconsistency between its provisions and that of other statutes; it would have no application and could not be used to stall the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013, when substantive factual or policy grounds were unavailable.
Section 46 of the Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975, did not trump or destroy or abridge any provision of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013. Section 46 of the Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975, thus, did not offend Art. 140A of the Constitution however where S. 46 of the said Act purported to override a conflicting action taken by an elected Local Government, it would be against the scheme of the Constitution and S. 46 should either be read down or declared ultra vires to the Constitution in such circumstances. The appeal was partly allowed accordingly.
In the case titled as Learning Alliance (Private) Limited Versus Province of Punjab bearing Writ Petition No 18066/2014 vide Order dated 30th July 2021 a Single Bench of the Lahore High Court was pleased to hold that “Lahore Development Authority cannot levy or recover conversion fee in terms of Section 28 of the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975 read with Rule 28 of the Rules of 2014 from roads or segments declared as commercial as per List A or otherwise converted for commercial use. The demand for a one time conversion fee is not justified in terms of Section 28 of the LDA Act and is against the mandate of the LDA Act. Consequently the demand notices raised and the public advertisement issued in newspapers both English and urdu, cannot form the basis to collect conversion fee from an area which is already declared commercial”.
In the case titled as Associated Engineering Concern (Pvt) Ltd through Chief Executive Officer/Authorized Signatory Versus Lahore Development Authority and others reported as PLD 2019 Lahore High Court 478 a Single Bench of the Lahore High Court was pleased to hold that Permanent commercialization of property, payment of Prescribed rates Applicability Submission of title documents Requisite Petitioner was the owner of land in question and paid a partial fee to seek permanent commercialization of his property but Lahore Development Authority refused on the grounds that valuations had changed vide notification dated 29-06-2017 and petitioner was required to resubmit fee on new rates—Validity.
Read more: Lahore becomes Pakistan’s first polio free city amid COVID-19 ravages
A look at the livelihood of Lahore
The reasons for building haphazard settlements on the fringes of Lahore city are numerous as well as complex. Most common are those made by the lower classes to solve their livelihoods and access to public service problems. Regrettably, the price of this kind of unplanned settlement is very high for the whole city. The repercussions are non-rational. The unplanned settlements have distorted the identity and quality of the social, economic, and cultural environment of Lahore. Considering the current status of Lahore, the growing economic and social dependence of rural areas on their urban centers is creating new and powerful drivers for rural-urban migration.
The majority of migrants are forced to leave their native villages because of social and economic vulnerabilities. Hence, if the employment opportunities are enhanced and public service delivery is improved considerably in rural areas, the migration towards peri-urban as well as urban areas will decrease. Consequently, the potential pressure on these areas can be managed appropriately.
May Allah help and guide us all!
The writer is an advocate high court practicing in Lahore and is a founding partner of Ahmed & Pansota (Advocates & Legal Consultants). He started his career with Cornelius, Lane & Mufti after doing Bar-at-Law from Inns of Court School Law, London, and was called to the bar at Lincolns Inn, London, in the year 2005. Barrister Pansota also figures as a legal analyst in a weekly talk show called Zanjeer-e-Adal on Capital TV and appears on other national TV channels. He also writes for various newspapers on current legal issues. He tweets @pansota1.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.