SAHIWAL, July 16: Commer-cial interests and alleged inefficiency of the district government have played havoc with a proposed eight-lane tartan track to be built in Sahiwal, according to Mian Hafeezur Rehman, District Athletics Association (DAA) president.
In 2004, the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), Islamabad, planned the Rs30.3 million track for the district. The all-weather synthetic track was to be built around a football ground. The PSB awarded the project to Sahiwal in recognition of district athletes who have won laurels at national and international athletics events.
PSB General Secretary Brig Shaukat Siddiqi visited Sahiwal in 2004 and met with the district nazim and officials for the implementation of the project.
The technical work was to be executed by a Chinese firm while the district government was only to provide place for the track.
"All stakeholders agreed that the track would be laid at Sheikh Zaffar Ali Stadium and experts visited the stadium with the district sports officer in 2004,” said Abdul Ghaffar Warraich, Sahiwal DDA general secretary. He said the experts asked the district administration to renovate the stadium before the lying down of the track. The district administration promised to do so in two phases. District Nazim Rai Hasan Nawaz assured experts and Brig Siddiqi that the stadium would be renovated in one year.
“The district nazim, however, utilised funds for building the Rai Ali Nawaz Stadium in his hometown Chichawatni and completely ignored Sheikh Zaffar Ali Road,” Mr Rehman alleged.
In 2006, the district government came up with a plan to build 54 shops at the eastern side and 50 on the western side of the Sheikh Zaffar Ali Stadium. These shops were to be rented out and the income was to be spent on the stadium.
“The DAA rejected the plan as the shops would reduce the space of the track,” said Mr Hafeez. Later, another issue cropped up among district government officials that who would own commercial shops.
“Despite the passage of three years shops have not been built while the renovation of the stadium is still on,” said Mr Hafeez.
According to a Building Stadium official, the district government has not provided funds for the stadium.
“Now, district officials have informed us the tartan track project has been shelved,” claimed Mr Hafeez. He said as the grant for the tartan track was lying with the PSB, there was no justification for shelving the plan.
Presently, 154 athletes from the district are part of six departments like Army, Navy, Wapda and Railways. In the recent 30th National Games, 10 out of 24 selected athletes were from Sahiwal.
District Coordination Officer Muhammad Khan Khichi informed Dawn the district government had no funds to build 54 shops at the Sheikh Zaffar Ali Stadium. He said even though the district government would go ahead with its plan of building the shops involving the private and public sectors, the shops would not affect the proposed tartan track project for athletes.