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Cabinet body takes up Onyx housing scheme

Cabinet body takes up Onyx housing scheme

Apr 27, 2011 - 15:07

KABULinfo-icon (PANinfo-icon): The Council of Ministers took up for a detailed discussion a new township in Kabul being built on 140 acres of state land, seized by the private Onyx Construction Company.

The Cabinet's Economic Committee, at a meeting late on Tuesday, conferred on the role of the Kabul Municipality and the Ministry of Urban Development in approving the controversial housing scheme.

Chaired by Vice-President Mohammad Karim Khalili, the meeting asked the ministry to inform the public about the procedure for approving such townships, particularly the one being constructed by Onyx.

The Cabinet Secretariat was directed not to execute orders, such as those issued by the two vice presidents, concerning the housing scheme. The presidential advisor on construction was asked to brief the committee on the issue.

The area that has been converted into residential plots by Onyx was surveyed in 1979 and classified as state property meant for a green belt, shows documentary evidence provided to Pajhwok Afghan News by the Kabul Municipality.

A house over 100 metre square piece of land in the area is priced between $100,000 (4.59 million afghanis) and $150,000. The overall cost of the land thus comes to more than $560 million.

The company sought formal permission from the Presidential Palace before building the township. Subsequently, Vice-President Karim Khalili directed the Ministry of Urban Development: "Consider the request in accordance with rules and after consulting relevant organs and documents."

Although the company claims having purchased the prized land from individuals who had legal ownership documents, information from the 8th municipal district reveals the locality was government property until April 2010.

An official confided: "In line with long-honoured principles, the municipality must accord approval to each town that is built in the capital city. In this particular case, the municipality has no record, whatsoever."

He said the private firm had never approached the municipality for authorisation of the project. Construction of the township and distribution of plots started on March 21.

The Property Department at Kabul Municipality, in an official letter No. 545, dated 28 Sept. 28, 2005, says: "Based on a master plan for the city, the neighbourhood is owned by the government and cannot be sold or purchased."

All official procedures were flouted by Onyx in developing the township, according to documents made available to this news agency.

"Under the master plan, land and plots in the area cannot be allotted, sold or purchased," the municipality said in a letter to the General Administration Directorate of the Judiciary.

But Karim Khalili permitted the company to build the town in violation of a clear cabinet decision and rules of the municipality.

After a lot of hedging and stalling, an Onyx stakeholder, Hajji Khalil Zadran, said they had legal ownership documents of the 140-acres land. However, he refused to give further details.

"Onyx has bribed some government officials to identify people speaking against the company," an employee of the 8th municipal district said on condition of anonymity. "Many officials have accepted the bribes."



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