How Islamabad Admin Let Monal Restaurant Continue Illegal Activities For 5 Months
When discussion heated up on social media about the unlawful activities of Monal Restaurant operating in the federal capital’s Margalla National Park area, authorities sealed the restaurant and arrested some 50 people. Authorities say that cases will be registered against them. But did Monal carry out all this expansion through construction and cutting down of trees in one day? To find out more about these illegal activities of the restaurant, Naya Daur Media investigated the matter, speaking to the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad and relevant officials of the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
A highly placed official at the Environmental Department of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad told Naya Daur Media that authorities had become aware five months ago that Monal Restaurant had not only conducted illegal construction in the Margalla Hills, but were also cutting many trees in an effort to expand the premises. Officials then visited the restaurant and confirmed that both these types of illegal activity were underway.
According to the official who spoke to Naya Daur Media, the laws of the National Park Areas around Islamabad are so tough that you can face legal action even for cutting down a bush.
He further stated that four months ago, the Environmental Department had written five letters to the CDA and the district municipal authority, intimating them that Monal Restaurant was carrying out such illegal activity as part of its expansion, and was thus ruining the Margalla Hills. There was no response from higher authorities. When another letter was written after these, verbal orders arrived: calling for the Environmental Department to stay away from this problem and focus on some other productive efforts. After these orders, the Environmental Department went silent on the matter.
When asked as to why the Environmental Department of the Metropolitan Corporation did not inform the relevant environmental ministry, the official explained that legally, this department could only inform either the CDA or the district municipal authority.
An official of the federal capital’s administration informed Naya Daur Media that Monal had chopped down more than 200 trees as part of its expansion effort, but it was not correct that this had been done during the days of the Coronavirus lockdown. In fact, he clarified, this project had been underway for five months, and the administration came into action only when the restaurant’s management had spread a great deal of destruction.
The director of the Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) at the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, Zafar Iqbal, has been removed from his position due to a failure to take timely action on Monal’s illegal activities and involvement in corruption.
Naya Daur Media asked a senior official at the Ministry of Climate Change about the illegal expansion activities of Monal Restaurant, and learned that the ministry had come to know of the matter some months ago. High-ups in the ministry were then informed of this. Some officials had subsequently claimed to have spoken to the owners of the restaurant, and they had informed them that they had received permission for this project. These officials had said that they did know who had given such permission.
When Naya Daur Media spoke to the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, he stated that the government believe in transparency and nobody was permitted to damage forests.
He went on to say that the Ministry was investigating this serious negligence, and would take the most strict action against whoever was found involved.
Naya Daur Media tried repeatedly to reach the director of the DMA at the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad Zafar Iqbal for comment, but he did not respond.