— Dawn
— Dawn

BAHWALNAGAR: The District Cricket Association (DCA) of Bahawalnagar alleges the district sports administration has denied permission for tournaments or matches to cricket clubs at the only stadium of the city -- Haider Stadium -- in the the past few months.

Former DSA president and Chishtian Cricket Club President Rana Zahid and Jinnah Gymkhana Sports Club President Ali Hasnain Syed said the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan was being sabotaged by government functionaries. They alleged that instead of opening up more stadiums for sports activities, the existing venues were being closed on the intervention of a provincial minister.

Bahawalnagar DCA President Asif Khan told Dawn that he had held several meetings with District Sports Officer Amir Hameed to get permission for a tournament in the stadium but in vain.

He claimed that Mr Hameed pointed to political pressure as the reason behind the stadium closure and told him to visit the provincial minister.

He alleged that all registered sports clubs had been barred from entering the stadium and only unregistered Laleka Cricket Club, run by the minister’s cousin, Umar Laleka, was allowed to use the stadium.

He said that Laleka Sports Club’s unfettered access to the stadium was the proof of political interference in sporting venues. He demanded an audit of the stadium as he said he feared that the politically-affiliated group had been using the stadium without paying the fee for the past few months, which, he said, would run the millions.

The officials of registered sports clubs demanded that the prime minister, the chief minister and Bahawalnagar district administration rid the Haider Stadium of political interference and permit sports clubs to hold events there.

District Sports Officer Amir Hameed admitted that he was facing political pressure on the usage of the stadium. However, he said, he would discuss the matter with senior officials to find solution to the deadlock.

The problem, however, has ego issues.

A sports official, on the condition of anonymity, said the DCA wanted to organise an event without the group supported by the provincial minister. He said that if the group was included in the event, there would be no hurdle to the event.

Mian Umar Zaman Laleka said that Laleka Sports Club was being run by his cousin Uzair Laleka and was unregistered. However, he said, Madni Cricket Club and Bahawalnagar Cricket Club were registered under his name and both clubs paid the fee set by the government to use the stadium. He denied the involvement of the minister to stop the sporting event. He said that according to new rules, the Bahawalnagar DCA was disbanded in Aug 19, 2019.

He said the DCA wanted to organise a tournament without including his registered sports club, which was not acceptable to him. He said that Haider Stadium was owned by the Punjab government and was a public property and everyone was allowed to use it.

He said that according to rules, all registered clubs were to be included in an event held at a public stadium. He said that if the DCA did not want to include his clubs in the tournament, they could organize it on a private property.

Former DSA president Rana Zahid responding to Laleka’s statement said that according to cricket board’s notification, the DCA could not organize an event officially until further orders and whenever a tournament would be organised on the board’s orders, all registered clubs would be included.

He, however, said that the matter here was about the inclusion of a club in a private event. He said that it was beyond comprehension how someone could force themselves into a private event and then use political pressure to push district administration to insist on including a club in an event.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2020