KARACHI: The Sindh government on Thursday handed over Karachi’s iconic park — Bagh Ibn-e-Qasim — to real estate giant Bahria Town for 10 years in a move which the provincial authorities claimed would save funds and encourage private organisations to carry out social work and public service.
A notification issued by the Sindh local government ministry stated that the decision to hand over the park “for adoption” had been taken after its approval by a competent authority, but made it clear that salary of its staff would be paid by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC).
For this ‘handover’, the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government first took over the control of the park from the city’s municipal administration mainly dominated by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan.
“In pursuance of notification of even number dated 21-11-2016 and with the approval of competent authority, Bagh Ibn-e-Qasim Park along with aquarium situated in Clifton has been taken over by the local government department from KMC and handed over to M/S Bahria Town Private Limited for adoption as per agreement executed on 30-03-2017,” said the notification.
Mayor says he has not been consulted by Sindh govt over ‘handover’
Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar told a television news channel that he had not been consulted on the handover of the park.
The park is in the vicinity of Bahria Icon Tower — an under-construction 60-storey building of the real estate tycoon which will be the country’s tallest structure after its completion.
But Sindh local bodies minister Jam Khan Shoro made it clear that the organisations adopting parks would not be allowed to use such facilities for commercial purposes.
A statement issued by the MQM on the deal, however, alleged that something more sinister than a simple ‘park adoption’ was under way.
“There are reports that the park was handed over on a condition that Bahria Town can use its eight acres area for commercial activities. We believe that these conditions are equal to exploitation of people’s rights and my party will raise the issue in the assemblies and also approach the court, if needed,” MQM-Pakistan leader Faisal Subzwari said in the statement.
Spread over 130 acres, the park was completed in a record time of 10 months after removing encroachments from 70 acres of its land. It was opened to the public in February 2007 after its inauguration by then president and army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf.
The then city government led by nazim Mustafa Kamal formally began the project in July 2005 and spent Rs500 million to complete the massive structure along the seashore.
The situation at the park started deteriorating in the absence of the local government for nearly five years which also affected the attendance of families at the park.
The new agreement between the provincial government and Bahria Town allowed the real estate company to “take care” of the park for the next 10 years “considering” its contribution to social and welfare projects, the local bodies minister told Dawn. It would definitely save government funds to a large extent, he added.
“It was proposed years ago that the government should hand over parks to those organisations or bodies which want to contribute to government facilities without putting any financial burden on people and without any financial interest,” Mr Shoro said, adding that recent amendments to local bodies rules paved the way for private organisations to adopt parks.
“It’s a practice across the world. The government will make sure that people enjoy cheap and healthy entertainment and recreational activities. This move is not restricted to Bahria Town; any organisation proving its interest in social work and people’s benefit can avail this,” the minister said.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2017