JHANG: Civil society and the general public have lamented the lack of entertainment and recreational facilities in the city.

Talking to Dawn, Qamar Abbas Zaidi, a district representative of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was particularly critical of the situation. His views were echoed by Munir Ahmad Sadhana, a former president of the Jhang District Bar Association.

Mr Zaidi said that Jhang city had suffered tremendously during the ‘90s from sectarian strife, and needed a whiff of fresh air in the form of cultural and recreational activities. “There is no concept of theatre in the city, whereas theatre is flourishing in the nearby cities of Faisalabad and Chiniot. Jhang has produced marvelous folk singers such as Mansoor Malangi, Talib Hussain Dard, Mohsin Jhangvi and Allah Ditta Lonaywala, who have fans not just in Pakistan, but also across the border, in Europe, US, Canada and Gulf states, or wherever Punjabi and Urdu-speaking people lived. But there have been no concerts in Jhang featuring these legends,” he lamented.

He further said that Jhang boasts of tremendous talent, but they could not get any exposure in their home city. Some renowned poets born here included Jafar Tahir, Sher Afzal Jaffery, Ram Riaz and the revolutionary poet-politician Safdar Saleem Sail. They have been invited to several mushairas in the country, but the people of Jhang have not had the good fortune to listen to them in such a gathering in the last three decades.

The civil society representatives also complained that Jhang was perhaps the only or one of the very few districts without a cinema. In 1947, they went on, there were three cinemas here, while one was added in the mid-70s. Unfortunately, all four were later demolished and transformed into commercial plazas and markets.

Not very long ago, Mr Sadhana added, there was a lot of sports activity in Jhang; volleyball and kabaddi besides cricket and hockey were the most popular games. No tournament has been held here during the last five or six years.

He added that the district administration and Punjab Sports Board had approved the laying of Astroturf at the Wajahat Shaheed Hockey Stadium, while Rs160 million had been approved for it as well as installation of floodlights in 2016. But even after three years, work has not started on either.

Chaudhry Khalid Pervaiz, a former member of the Punjab Bar Council, attributed this situation to local religious parties and clerics. He pointed out that in the early ‘90s, the district administration had announced awards for outstanding people from various walks of life, called Sandal Award. Some local artists sang a few songs at the inaugural event, but the then MNA, belonging to a religious outfit and present at the event as chief guest, strongly objected to it and termed it obscene and vulgar.

He lamented that the inaugural function proved to be the last of Sandal Award. Some local fairs such as Mela Shah Jewna and Urs of Hazrat Sultan Bahoo were held annually. But entertainment programmes such as theatre, circus and magic shows had been totally banned.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2020