Under-construction cultural complex turned into ‘animal stable’

Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Cultural Complex was to be functional two years ago

Sarfaraz Memon December 23, 2016
Construction work at the cultural complex started in 2012. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

SUKKUR: The under-construction building of a cultural complex and public library - ‘Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Cultural Complex’ - in Sukkur gives the look of a rural landscape where many animals are being brought up instead of serving as a centre for cultural activities.

The building has become the worst example of Sindh government’s apathy towards the third biggest city of the province. It was supposed to be functional long ago but has been left incomplete and no progress has been made during more than the last two years.

After demolishing the alMehran Cultural Centre near the Jinnah Municipal Stadium and giving its plot to the Humayoon Gymkhana more than eight years ago, the authorities had provided a plot near the deputy commissioner’s office for the construction of a cultural complex and public library.

The construction work of the cultural complex started in 2012 at an estimated cost of Rs48.715 million and the then Sindh minister of culture, Sassui Palijo, along with the then secretary of culture, Abdul Aziz Uqaili, had visited the site on March 1, 2013, to review the progress of the work. The work at the cultural complex was supposed to be completed by the end of 2014 - it has yet to be completed.

More than two years ago, the then adviser on culture to the Sindh chief minister, Sharmila Farooqi, had promised that the construction of the complex would be completed within the next couple of months. However, the under-construction building remains incomplete at the end of 2016.

Rather, the cultural complex has been turned into a mini zoo where cows, goats, hens and ducks roam about freely.

An elderly watchman, Mohammad Moosa, remains at the complex and is believed to be looking after the animals that belong to the contractor.

The contract for the construction of the cultural complex was awarded to Farrukh Adil Shaikh, who is believed to be a close confidant of Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Islamuddin Shaikh, an official requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune, adding that the contractor is pressing the authorities to revise the estimated cost of the building and that they have prepared a case and sent it to the Sindh government.

Sukkur deputy commissioner Dr Waheed Asghar Bhatti, who is also the project director of development works told The Express Tribune that the project of the cultural complex was actually being funded by the federal government.

After the change of the federal government in 2013, Islamabad withdrew the funds and then the Sindh government took over many development projects, including the cultural complex, Humayoon Gymkhana and Makrani Mosque, said Bhatti, claiming that work on the Makrani Mosque resumed recently. He hoped that work at the cultural complex will be started soon.

“I don’t remember its actual cost,” commented Bhatti, when asked about the estimated cost of the complex.

Earlier, the estimated cost of the cultural complex was Rs48.715 million but then it was revised to Rs99.361 million, said an official at the DC office requesting anonymity. The revised estimated cost has been approved by the director-general of the Sindh culture department but it needs a green light by the Sindh government, which is still awaited, he said.

Commenting on the animals kept in the under-construction cultural complex, the official was of the view that people living in the neighbourhood may have kept their animals there.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2016.


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