ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet has given the go-ahead signal to Privatisation Commission (PC) to sell off Services International Hotel, Lahore without reconsideration of deal at the cabinet committee on privatization (CCoP) level, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

In September, 2021, the Cabinet did not ratify the decision of CCoP due to objections raised by the Chairman of a Parliamentary Committee on the height of the hotel, who wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Cabinet referred back the decision to CCoP with the direction to reconsider it. However, PC did not place the matter before the CCoP but on October 27, 2021, Minister for Privatisation, Mohammedmian Soomro requested the Cabinet to ratify the decision as it had been linked to the rechecking of the height limit in the area, which had now been confirmed that height restriction was actually 245 feet as earlier stated by the Privatisation Division.

Earlier, Secretary, Aviation Division, briefed the Cabinet on “height restrictions under Rule 68 (Obstacle Limitation Surface) of CAA Rules”, as well as, “Aviation Policy and its implementation status, highlighting any deviations (if any) and the reasons thereof”.

Height Restrictions under Rule 68 (Obstacle Limitation Surface) of CAA Rules- are as follows ;(i) removing impediments in shifting from NOC regime to compliance regime in matter of Aviation laws/rules in this regard;(ii) identifying and rectifying problems faced by developers/builders in this regard and ;(iii) reviewing international standards, while taking into account the examples of Hong Kong, Dubai and New York.

According to the Aviation Division, the following impediments have been identified: (i) prior provision of WGS-84 Coordinates ;(i) Survey of Pakistan Ambiguities in Legal Framework ;(iii) SRO 9(KE)/2021 capacity constraints of BCAs and FAB BCA by-laws ;(iv) OLS / amended Rule 68 not embedded Reservations of PAF; and (v) high-rise pockets in major cities strengthening of monitoring/ enforcement regime.

Gap analysis indicates that there were no clear directions with BCA as to what actions are to be taken, after provision of Coordinates to CAA/PAF. No time-lines are given for any entity. PAF/MoD reservations on SRO 11(KE)/2020 are due to operational requirements, BCAs / FAB capacity issues in assessing height clearance and aviation OLS.

Aviation Division proposed the following framework, high-rise constructions salient features; no requirement for prior provision of WGS-84 Coordinates to PCAA and PAF by BCAs, time-bound activities by all the entities, No clearance / permission required from CAA/PAF within OLS and high-rise pockets.

Existing rules- Prior provision of coordinates (WGS-84 Coordinates in degree minutes and seconds up to 2 decimal places) and elevation duly authenticated by Survey of Pakistan and height allowed (AGL/ AMSL) to CAA/ PAF).

Proposed rules- Sub Section (3) of SRO 9 shall be amended to allow the BCAs to issue height clearance on receipt of coordinates/ site elevation from SOP and intimate CAA & PAF for AIP (AGL/AMSL).

Proposed amendments in SRO11(KE)/2020- High-Rise pockets Provision of WGS-84 Coordinates by SoP within ten working days in the major cities 02 weeks refresher training of BCA officers by CAA & PAF in CATI, HYD and publishing of city maps overlaid with OLS surfaces by the BCAs with timelines. Establishment of a digital interface for one window operation by the BCAs.

Aviation Division proposed the following for strengthening regulatory framework ;(i) embedding the OLS model in the by-laws of the BCAs BCAs to assume responsibility for prevention/ removal of vertical encroachment and ensuring that no such encroachment is regularised at any cost;(ii) removal of NOC requirements from CAA/ PAF from BCAs bylaws BCAs to facilitate CAA and PAF in annual building height audit and removal of violations, if any; and (iii) removal of violations shall be at risk and cost of violators.

Aviation Division considers that the NAP-2019, as amended from time to time, has been implemented in its original form as approved by the Federal Cabinet.

During discussion, it was pointed out that the main reason for relatively stringent height restrictions was that the major airports were being used for the civil, as well as, military purposes. The Prime Minister stressed upon the importance of easing height restrictions and expressing concern over the horizontal expansion in the major urban cities, which was eating up fertile agricultural land, endangering nation’s food security, and he exhorted upon the criticality of going vertical. The construction of high-rise buildings was not only crucial to save the precious agricultural land but was also a more economical option for providing civic amenities to the residents of metropolises. On the suggestion by members, the Prime Minister directed Secretary to the Prime Minister to hold a separate meeting with all relevant stakeholders to find an amicable and quick solution.

On the issue of deviations in Aviation Policy, the Secretary, Aviation Division informed that a detailed report in that regard would be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Minister for Privatization requested that the decision of the CCoP regarding privatization of Services International Hotel may be ratified by the Cabinet, as it had been linked to the rechecking of the height limit in the area, which had now been confirmed that height restriction was actually 245 feet as earlier stated by the Privatization Division.

After detailed discussion, the Cabinet decided that Secretary to the Prime Minister will hold a separate meeting with relevant stakeholders on the issue of building height restrictions.

The Cabinet ratified the decision of the CCoP in the case titled “Privatization of Services International Hotel, Lahore - approval of bidder and bid price”, taken in its meeting held on September 10, 2021.—MUSHTAQ GHUMMAN