Joint Action Committee Quaid-I-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad comprising of relevant stakeholders i.e Academic Staff Association, Officers Welfare Association, QAU Alumni Association, Employees Welfare Association has released fact sheet on important issues pertaining to QAU land and ongoing Bhara Kahu bypass.
According to the Fact Sheet, Bhara-Kahu Bypass project has far-reaching implications for the university; it violates the sanctity of the only National University of the country, it bisects the campus into two noncontagious barricaded parts, it separates the entire front of the university on Murree-road from rest of the main campus thus diminishing any chance of having a dedicated road access (from Murree-road) for the university, it is detrimental to the natural environment of the university area including extremely valuable Botanical Garden of the university, it violates the master plan of the university including sites reserved for National Research Centers, it consumes about 600 Kanals of precious university land rendering significant additional land unusable, while leaving about 2000 Kanals of most precious (front) university land at the mercy of land encroachers, and last but not the least, it destroys the peaceful academic and research environment by sowing the seeds of discord and unrest amongst students, faculty, alumni and employees of the university.
The bypass construction on university land started in September 2022 by breaking boundary wall of the university, establishing of camp site and concrete/asphalt plants on university land adjacent to QAU residential colony, and by cutting hundreds of mature trees, all without intimation let alone approval from university syndicate. Ironically, the project construction started without mandatory approval from the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PEPA). Showing serious concerns on the ongoing developments, QAU community, during past few weeks, has petitioned to University Syndicate, the Hon’ble Islamabad High Court (IHC), a Cabinet sub-committee, the Pak-EPA, and the Environmental Tribunal against this violation of QAU land.
QAU is the only National University envisioned in the original Islamabad Master Plan 1960 to be in the National Park area. Therefore, for this purpose, a total of 1709 acres, 4 kanals, and 12 marlas land in National Park area was acquired, payment of which was made by QAU, while paying an additional 10.5% to CDA as service charges. QAU additionally houses seven National Research Centers/Institutes again consistent with the National Park definition in the Master Plan. Therefore, a highway construction on QAU land is inconsistent with the Islamabad Master Plan.
As per road plan, the bypass on QAU land is designed as six-lane highway requiring 600 feet including ROW. This design will take at least one complete row of houses, a mosque and children playground, in the adjacent QAU residential colony. Interestingly the bypass design is four-lane before and after the QAU area, where it is being constructed as six-lane, whose logic is beyond comprehension. Sharing alternative options, the Fact Sheet suggested possible solutions.
As per revised Islamabad Master Plan, the Northern and Southern Ring Road Bypasses are the real and long term solution of traffic congestion in Islamabad due to Murree/Galiyat/Northern Areas bound traffic from across Pakistan, whereas the congestion at Bara Kahu may be avoided by constructing an elevated road on the existing Murree Road, as announced by last two successive governments. This plan would neither require a modification in the Islamabad Master Plan nor the fresh EIA report for the project. Interestingly the present bypass project also contains a 1.5 Km elevated part above the existing Murree Road, while additional 4.2 Km part is on ground including 1.7 Km on QAU land. Another 2 Km of elevated part will completely resolve the problem instead of consuming QAU Land.
Instead of unilaterally and arbitrarily bisecting the QAU campus, the bypass may be constructed in consultation with QAU and possibly utilizing the peripheral QAU land starting near Metro station and running along the QAU Boundary Nullah. This will avoid QAU Land bisection as well as inconvenience for academic, research and residential purposes of QAU land.
It is also pertinent to mention a lack of QAU trust towards CDA. Apart from recent objectionable maneuvering in connection with the bypass issue, there are following two longstanding issues:
Vacant Possession of QAU Land: A total of 1709 Acres, 4 Kanals and 12 Marla of land was acquired for the university during 1967-72. The complete payment of land acquiring was made by the University, while the CDA was paid additional 10.5% as service charges. The allotment of this land to QAU was made in 1976. Since then, QAU is continuously writing to CDA for vacant possession of QAU land and removal of illegal occupants. First such letter, with identification of illegal occupants, was written in the same year 1976, and later with a frequency of almost twice a year. However, CDA never took a single step in this direction and with passage of time only the encroachment of land/land grabbing kept on increasing, reaching to over 400 Acres as of now.
QAU Land Demarcation: Despite repeated requests, the CDA never completed the QAU 1709 Acres land demarcation due to which QAU could not complete its boundary wall and is exposed to all kinds of ills. In 2019, QAU through Survey of Pakistan conducted survey of its land. It was revealed by Survey of Pakistan that QAU Map Area handed over to QAU by CDA is 152 Acres short of the allotted 1709 acres. CDA owes QAU 152 Acres in shortage of land and about 400 acres still in possession of illegal occupants. It must be noted that these issues have not been addressed by the CDA past 50 years, despite repeated orders from the standing committees, cabinet decisions and court orders.
At the end, all the stakeholders hoped that their genuine concerns will be adequately addressed; and legitimate interests of Pakistan’s only national and top ranked prestigious higher education institution, established in the name of Founder of Pakistan will be safeguarded. JAC will take every step to save QAU land from this ill-conveived plan its unilateral execution to save the peaceful academic/research environment and precious property of QAU.