Political workers in, school children out

Ghulam Dastagir May 19, 2010

FAISALABAD: Around 300 participants of an inter-school singing competition were allegedly unceremoniously removed from the Faisalabad Arts Council auditorium on Wednesday to accommodate political workers who came to hear the PML-N leaders.

The competition was underway when the arts council administration received orders from the district coordination officer’s (DCO) orders to vacate the premises for a PML-N workers’ convention which was to be addressed among others by adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Zulfiqar Ali Khosa and member National Assembly (MNA) Hamza Shahbaz Sharif. Following the orders, policemen reached the spot and forced the children out of the building. The competition was scheduled to end at 2:30 pm but was stopped at around 12:30 pm.

The participating children who belonged to several private schools in the district had to wait outside the auditorium for around two hours. Aasma, a grade five student, told The Express Tribune that she had asked her parents to pick her up at around 2 pm.She said that now she would have to wait outside the auditorium for two hours. The convention was originally planned at the Circuit House but the venue was changed at the eleventh hour owing to the limited capacity there.

In the end, the Arts Council auditorium with a capacity to seat 500 people also proved inadequate to accommodate the PML-N workers. Some of them reportedly clashed with the policemen in a rush to get seated in the front rows. Arts Council resident director Asif Chaudary told The Express Tribune that the DCO had contacted him after the children’s competition had begun. He said that the first half of the competition and a prize distribution ceremony did take place and only some of the performances were affected by the urgent orders. “We usually have some time between two events to clean the auditorium, but with the DCO giving us a short notice we could do no better than just vacate the premises and hand it over,” Chaudary said.

He said that there was no untoward incident and the only inconvenience caused was to the children who had to wait to be picked up for some time. All Pakistan Private School Unity representative Chaudary Muhammad Tahir said that the evacuation notice was sudden and they were not even halfway through the event.

He said that a number of children had to wait for their pick ups in scorching heat outside the auditorium. “The children had been preparing for the event for many days and were very disappointed to receive the evacuation notice,” Tahir said. The singing competition was a joint venture of the Arts Council and All Pakistan Private Schools’ Unity. The first round of the competition was held at the participating schools. Yesterday’s event was the second and last round.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 20th, 2010.

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