2 officials suspended for 'inefficiency and negligence' after uproar over Allama Iqbal statue in Lahore
Two officials of the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) Lahore were suspended for "inefficiency and negligence of duty" on Tuesday after a furore on social media over a statue of Allama Iqbal installed in the city's Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park.
According to an order issued by the authority, a copy of which was seen by Dawn.com, Shah Nawaz Wattoo, the park's Deputy Director Horticulture, and Assistant Director Horticulture Ghulam Sibtain, who lead the construction initiative, have been suspended with "immediate effect".
Earlier today, social media users expressed their ire on Twitter, sharing pictures of the statue which they said was not an accurate representation of the national poet. Some even called it a disgrace to the man it aimed to honour.
Sibtain, the former project director, earlier told Dawn that construction on the statue started during the first wave of the coronavirus.
"We did not hire any architect to make the statue but two gardeners worked on it," he revealed.
Sibtain took the initiative after orders by former PHA director Gen Muzaffar Siyal to construct a "selfie point" in the park.
He said that he purchased a giant poster of Allama Iqbal to use as a reference for the statue.
Sibtain said he did not spend any state money to make the selfie point. "I requested some elderly people who come to the park daily to help us with funds in the making of this statue. We bought cement with the collected funds, and used iron rods and wood dumped in the park."
He said that the statue was a work in progress when he was transferred from the post last month. "We have only completed the left side of the statue but the right side remains incomplete. The statue is not yet accurate. We wanted to paint it golden but it remains in its white unfinished form."
After the pictures of the statue went viral on social media, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also took notice, directing officials to remove it.
He also asked the PHA director general to submit a report, saying: "A concrete inquiry should be conducted to determine those responsible and action should be taken."
The chief minister said that the placing of the statue in the park was a "sign of negligence of the authorities concerned", adding that "institutional action should be taken against them".