Politics being played at Narowal Sports City

17 May 2020

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— Dawn photos
— Dawn photos

NAROWAL: The structure of the incomplete Sports City of Narowal is being vandalised even though it has yet to be completed and formally launched.

PML-N MNA Ahsan Iqbal often credits himself with getting the mega sports project approved from the PPP government in 2010. The project spreading over 44 acres, however, remained a non-starter till 2013 because of the lack of funds.

When Mr Iqbal became federal planning and development minister in the PML-N government in 2013, he ensured the availability of funds for the project. Despite his efforts and claims, the city could not be completed during the party rule. In 2015, he said 2016 would be yearof inauguration of the project. In 2016, he gave the deadline of 2017. Now, he is facing action by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for his alleged corruption in the project.

The sports city has 14 stadiums and courts of sports, such as cricket, football, hockey, volleyball, squash, table tennis, lawn tennis, badminton court and other games besides swimming pools. Most of the grounds have been completed whereas 80 to 90 percent work has been completed on other projects. The city has also facilities like a mosque, hotel and gymnasium.

There has been no construction activity at the city in the last 18 months due to NAB inquiries. Windowpanes, doors and ventilators are broken at several places. The wooden floors are broken at places. The AstroTurf at the hockey stadium is also damaged whereas the construction machinery is getting rusted.

Local residents Mohammad Aslam Gondal and Khurram Shahzad Chaudhari said the city project provided jobs to hundreds of labourers. The government should investigate corruption charges but labourers should not be fired, they demanded. Mr Gondal alleged locals were damaging windowpanes and doors and flooring of the infrastructure.

— Dawn photos
— Dawn photos

Sportsmen Mohammed Islam and Kamran Baig said they were very happy at the launch of the sports city that they would play international games here but due to the policies of the government they were disappointed.

Mr Baig said when the foundation stone of the project was laid down 10 years ago, he was 25.

“Now, I’m 35 and I don’t think that I will be able to play game in the Sports City.”

Local journalist Irfan Ali Jawaid said MNA Iqbal used to call the project a gift for the players of Pakistan.

The MNA also used to say that he would make the sports city the first sports university of Asia.

Mr Jawaid said more than 80 per cent of construction work has been done, and if the governmentpayattention to it, the sports project could be inaugurated in months.

MNA Iqbal said: “The Sports City is a project for the young players of Pakistan but it is unfortunate that the government is criticising playground.”He said during the last 18 months the construction work of sport city had completely been halted, and only Rs400 million was needed to complete it, which government was not providing. He claimed after sometime it would cost Rs2 billion.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2020