RAWALPINDI: A beautification drive was launched in Rawalpindi by the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) in collaboration with Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) six months ago but it could not attain pace due to lack of interest among the concerned authorities.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar visited Rawalpindi in April and asked the PHA to make a plan to beautify the city’s main artery - Murree Road - while removing all eyesores besides developing a food street in the city.

However, the PHA limited its work to signing a memorandum of understanding with RCCI to jointly execute the ‘Revival of Rawalpindi’ project. The chief minister had assigned the task of beautifying Rawalpindi and establishing parks as well as a food street to the PHA.

The Punjab government formed an 11-member task force led by Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) Chairman Asif Mehmood and consisting of representatives of the local administration, Rawalpindi Cantonment Board, traders, Rawalpindi Development Authority, National College of Arts, Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation and the archeology department.

The committee had to give recommendations for the restoration of old buildings to its original shapes to attract tourists. But despite passage of many months no work has been done so far.

Earlier, Kartarpura was selected for a food park but due to public resentment it was abandoned. Later, the PHA decided to develop a food park at the rear of Shabistan Cinema near Committee Chowk. Initial work started there but again could not be completed.

On the other hand, a senior official of PHA told Dawn that the PHA just installed some lights on the pillars of the metro bus track, decorated walls of commissioner office and Benazir Bhutto Hospital and improved greenbelts form Shamsabad to Faizabad.

The PHA had already done such work at Committee Chowk and the overhead railway bridge at Marir Chowk. Besides, the authority also made floral national flags in front of Jinnah Park and Faizabad. It also established flowerbeds along Murree Road, Rashid Minhas Road, Marrir Chowk, Sixth Road and Chandni Chowk.

But the residents said there was a dire need to beautify the entire city instead of limiting the beautification drive to lightning metro pillars.

“The lightning work is being done on metro pillars but the PHA has to plant trees along roads, especially Murree Road, and in Raja Bazaar,” said Suhail Ahmed, a resident of Saadi Road.

He said instead of improving the walls, the PHA should spend public money on the development of greenbelts along the roads.

Naveed Ahmed, a resident of Murree Road, said Fawara Chowk was being reconstructed but the PHA had to plant trees in medians of roads and look after the plants on Liaquat Road.

He said some trees planted on the median of the road need attention of PHA.

“The flowerbeds are only for Civil Lines area and around commissioner office. It appears that the PHA beautifies areas to please their bosses only,” he said.

When contacted, PHA Chairman Mohammad Asif said the PHA had started the beautification drive to improve the face of the city from G.T. Road to Islamabad.

He said there were many plans but shortage of funds hampered the uplift work. He said the existing work was being done through available funds.

He said the list of historical buildings had also been finalised which would be restored and beautification of the Murree Road and metro track pillars would be launched soon. He said traders would also join the work soon and Punjab government would provide funds.

Meanwhile, the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board failed to carry out any work.

“We made a plan for beautification of Saddar and other areas but it will be launched through our own funds,” said an official.

He said under the clean and green Pakistan many trees were planted in the area.

“We planted many trees during the monsoon drive while more will be planted in coming days,” he said.

Chaklala Cantonment Board is paying attention only on those roads and areas where influential politicians and government officials were residing. The areas of low income groups or main commercial hubs are being ignored.

CCB Vice President Raja Irfan Imtiaz confirmed that the green drive was limited to some areas as the civic body was facing shortage of funds. He said no funds were provided by the federal and provincial governments for this purpose.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2019