NAROWAL: Almost 80 per cent of the construction work of Narowal Sports City had been completed when the work on the mega project was halted by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government in 2018 and because of the four-year delay its remaining cost has jumped from Rs400 million in 2018 to Rs1.5 billion, regrets federal minister for planning and development Ahsan Iqbal.
The minister, who has recently been acquitted of charges of corruption in the project, says work on the project was initiated in 2010 on a piece of land measuring 46 acres on Muridke Road, two kilometers away from Narowal. The complex had infrastructure for all major sports.
He says that on the orders of former premier Imran Niazi, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had taken all the construction record of the project in custody and started an inquiry.
“I was arrested by the NAB on charges of corruption in the project. The NAB kept me in its custody for three months, but could not produce any evidence of the alleged corruption for four years,” he says.
Project required just Rs400m when halted in 2018
Ahsan Iqbal regrets that because of halting of the construction work of the project, the AstroTurf worth Rs80 million, that was to be laid in the hockey ground, expired in boxes. Similarly, he said, the chemicals worth more than Rs70m, used in the running track around the football ground, also expired. The imported wooden floor installed in the gymnasium building in the Sports City has also become dilapidated, while the windows, doors and glass screen of the pavilion and other buildings of the sports ground to be constructed, have also broken, he deplores.
Iqbal says a friendly match was also played by the players of the Pakistan cricket team in the Sports City cricket stadium back in 2018, regretting the ground has now been reduced to a jungle comprising bushes and wild grass.
He says only a sum of Rs400 million was required to complete the Sports City project in 2018, but because of the inflation and the massive rise in dollar, it will now cost more than Rs1.5 billion complete it.
Iqbal deplores that Imran Niazi and NAB harmed a national project on the basis of false allegations of corruption against him, vowing to recover the cost of the damage done to the mega sports complex from the PTI chairman and the NAB officials concerned.
“I myself will file a case against Imran Niazi and NAB to recover the losses suffered by the national exchequer [because of suspension of the project],” he says.
Saeed Ahmed, a sub-contractor of the project, says that for the last four years the machinery of contractors has been rusting in Sports City and has become useless, while their dues worth millions of rupees were also not being paid by the government.
Ahsan Iqbal says the construction work of the project will be started again by October 15, hoping it will be complete within next six months.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2022