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DAWN - Features; May 18, 2006

May 18, 2006

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DATELINE SARGODHA: Vested interests hamper growth

By Sajjad Abbas Niazi


SOME TIME ago Sargodha was the divisional headquarters of Faisalabad, Jhang, Sargodha, Mianwali ,Bhakkar and Khushab. It had the credit of Hilal-i-Istaqlal and was known as the city of eagles. But due the manipulation of bureaucrats and politicians it was deprived of regional offices of various departments which were later set up at Faisalabad.

Although this district is well known for agricultural products and delicious citrus fruit, it has not been given importance at the higher level. The recognition of its status in all spheres of life is being denied and the politicians of this district are not pressing hard for the legitimate demands of the area. Probably they are settled at Islamabad or Lahore and only come here to fight election. It may be they want the people of this area to remain oppressed so that they could maintain their hold over its politics. It will not be out of place to mention here that this district was considered as the area of toadies before partition. Former Prime Minister of united Punjab Malik Khizar Hayat Tiwana hailed from this district and his estate was known as “Khizabad estate”. Now his grand daughter Shahzadi Umerzadi Tiwana, MNA, is trying to uplift the status of the people of this estate and is facing a tough time from her opponent Mian Mazhar Ahmad Qureshi MNA. Former Prime Minister Malik Feroze Khan Noon was a resident of this area. He left behind big land holdings and business in Tehsil Bhalwal but did nothing for the overall betterment of the district.

In fact, the politicians of this district did not want to go beyond their native constituency and for this reason avoided taking interest in building and improving its economy. Former Minister of state for finance Ehsan Ul Haq Piracha, a seasoned politician, also confined himself to his native constituency Bhalwal and similarly other MNAs and MPAs and ministers failed to come out of the confines of their respective constituencies. Former law minister senator Dr.Khalid Ranjha also belongs to this district. He has dedicated his entire land for the betterment of the suffering humanity and set up a free Sardar Khan Ranjha Trust hospital here. But he did nothing for the promotion of farmers, industrialists and other welfare projects.

When the motorway was constructed it was planned that an industrial area would be set up along the road. An export processing zone was also approved. Despite having four interchanges at Bhera, Salim, Kotmomen and Sial Morr(now Makhdoom) no development was made. The Bhera interchange was made with the efforts of Ehsan Ul Haq Piracha but thereafter during the regime of Mian Nawaz Sharif its name was changed to Pir Karma Shah Interchange in recognition of the services of religious scholar, Justice Pir Karam Shah, Federal Shariat Court. Similarly, interchange Kotmomen was constructed to accommodate the then deputy speaker, Punjab Assembly, Mian Manazir Ali Ranjha and cause damage to his political rival from Garah family who was associated with the PPP, by acquiring his most precious land. Otherwise, it has not yet shown any useful purpose for the larger interest of the people of this area. Thereafter another interchange was built at Sial Morr to link various areas including district Sargodha, Mandi Bahauddin and Jhang but its name was changed to Makhdoom interchange. This trend is ample proof of the thinking of the politicians who did not want to work for the larger interests of the country or the district.

Sui Northern has spread its jurisdiction up to Bhakkar and Mianwali but its regional office is still at Faisalabad although it was earlier planned at Sargodha. Similarly, the offices of Income tax department were also being planned to be shifted to Faisalabad. The people coming from Bhakkar located at the boundary of Muzaffargarh and those coming from Mianwali situated at the boundary of the NWFP will face the trouble of long travel and waste of time and money. The Tax Bar Association is protesting and some traders have also voiced concern over the proposed shifting of the income tax offices to Faisalabad but no political leader has taken a stand for the rights and problems of the people of this area.

The youngsters of this area are very talented and have proved their potential both in hockey and cricket but neither has an astroturph stadium been set up despite approval since long nor any steps taken to improve the condition of the stadium where international matches were played. In cricket Sargodha and Mianwali produced very talented players including Misbah Ul Haq, Arshad Pervez, Naveed Latif and Muhammad Hafeez and the upcoming players are Faisal Khan Afridi, Sami Niazi, Malik Asad, Jibran Khan, Usman Arshad and Muhammad Manan but four districts including Sargodha, Mianwali, Bhakkar and Khushab were linked to Faisalabad region, which is an injustice with the cricket players of this area and rather a conspiracy to curtail its upcoming talent. Though Faisalabad region is mainly based on players of Sargodha, most of the talented and shining players are being deprived of their legitimate right. The cricketers of this area made a written request to the President Pakistan Cricket Board for making Sargodha a separate region but he refused to understand the situation and remained under the influence of well to do people from Faisalabad who apprehended that if Sargodha was detached from Faisalabad region they would not win even its first match. The cricketers of this area, including Chaudhry Nazeer and Chaudhri Pervez, appealed to the President General Pervez Musharraf to intervene to save the cricket set-up from a disastrous collapse.

They said that this district hosted a one-day international match on 10th January 1992 between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They added that West Indies and other well-known teams also played on this ground and Sargodha was hosting all First and B-class cricket matches since 1956 and this promoted cricket as well as the talent hunt scheme in the area. They called for making separate cricket regions comprising Sargodha, Mianwali, Khushab, Bhakkar, Jhang and Mandi Bahauddin but the PCB high ups, reportedly unaware of the future of cricket and for their vested interests were bent upon keeping Sargodha as a separate region. Cricketers are of the view that this idea of PCB president and his cronies is harmful for the game. They demanded of the President of Pakistan to intervene for the betterment of cricket. They claimed that if the PCB comes out of Lahore and Karachi, they can get talented players from this area, which may help earn a good name for the country. It is also worth mentioning here that only the players hailing from Sargodha and playing on behalf of Faisalabad region are showing good performance.

As for industry, there are four sugar mills in the district and as the sugar mills owners have not yet paid the dues of sugarcane growers for the last year, the latter have decided to avoid growing sugarcane. In this way a crisis of sugar industry may haunt this district as well. The administration failed to get the sugar cess funds and other taxes from the sugar mills only due to reason that the ruling elite own almost all the sugar mills and they cannot take direct action against them. A local industrialist Mian Anwar Khurshid, has overall control over the distribution of sugar in the country and is known as the main stockiest of the commodity which is why its rate is fixed from Sargodha.

Another product of this district is citrus which is well known for its taste all over the world but the Export Promotion Bureau, has failed to help the local citrus growers to export the fruit even though they have improved its quality by grading and waxing. This wrong policy overburdened the growers with heavy loans and crippling bank charges, which they obtained from various banks for getting better yield. It will be interesting to mention here that the industry manufacturing electric switches and other appliances here is well known for its quality all over Pakistan, but this cottage industry is also being ignored. Mirza Mukhtar Ahmad, President, Cottage Industries, stressed the need for promoting small factories here by affording them all possible rebate in taxes and soft loans which, according to him, would play a pivotal role in promoting the economy. Mr.Sahni, President Sargodha Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that the regional offices should be set up at Sargodha and maximum facilities be provided for setting up industries here.

One Imran Khan, advocate, said that environmental pollution was increasing day by day due to the stone crushing industry. He said that the owners should be bound to the take necessary measures to avoid pollution as it was causing lung and eye diseases.