LAHORE: Excited visitors at the much-hyped Greater Iqbal Park are in for a huge disappointment as Pakistan’s sole thematic park – or so to be proclaimed – is still mostly incomplete.
The renovated park offering visitors panoramic views of the historic Minar-e-Pakistan, the majestic Lahore Fort, the iconic Azadi Interchange and the magnificent Badshahi Mosque was inaugurated with much fanfare on December 17.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself officially opened the long-delayed Greater Iqbal Park that represents the culture of all federating units of the country.
The park, which has been named after the national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal, has been developed on an area of about 127 acres, comprising circular gardens and access roads on 26 acres, 45 acres of the Greater Iqbal Park itself as well as 56 acres of the park with Minar-e-Pakistan.
Apart from its rolling lawns, unending flower beds, a musical dancing fountain, a natural history museum and a national heroes’ gallery is also in the pipeline for the park. But all this remains a distant dream, as it will probably take months to complete.
“Not a single plot in the 127-acre park is green or clean,” complains a visitor, Muhammad Bilal, while voicing his disappointment. “There is dust and debris everywhere.”
Bilal visited the park last Friday. He said his family members were keen to see the dancing fountain and spend some quality time in nature, but were extremely frustrated to see no section of the park had been completed. “Instead of green lawns, there were muddy plots full of stagnant water,” he claimed.
Faizan Ezad, 10, runs around in the park with mud sticking to his shoes. He told The Express Tribune his father brought him to there to introduce him to Pakistan’s history. “Even the park in our neighbourhood is better than this one, because it is green and at least has a play area,” the kid says.
Similar views were shared by several other visitors.
Zubair Ahmed came to the Greater Iqbal Park from Sheikhupura with his family members to show them the iconic Minar-e-Pakistan. But they also were disappointed as the monument has been closed for renovation.
“I am unable to understand why the government has opened the park before its completion,” he said. “Construction and horticulture works are under way in most areas. Workers are still installing benches and electrical fixtures.”
Lahore Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) Managing Director Shakeel Ahmed said the horticulture works under way in different sections of the park would take a couple of months to complete.
The authority, he added, had been waiting for the change in weather as the current climate was not suitable for plantation of seasonal plants.
Shakeel said the authority had also completed the technical evaluation for outsourcing the food courts at the park. The PHA is likely to open the bids today (Tuesday) and hand over the food operations to private vendors. By the time the park would be completed, food courts would be functional, he hoped.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2016.