ISLAMABAD: Taking a leaf out of the book of its predecessor, the incumbent government has decided to put the crown jewel of the federal capital, the Jinnah Convention Centre up for sale.
However, the move has received some pushback from the civic agency of the city.
The previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had considered auctioning the convention centre in 2014-15 in hopes of raising revenues worth Rs10 billion to Rs15 billion.
However, the plan could not materialise .
Now, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led federal government has decided to revive that plan and put the convention centre back on the anvil.
Sources have told The Express Tribune that the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCOP) in its February 13, 2019, meeting took up the matter of putting the convention centre on sale.
During the meeting, it was informed that the Privatisation Commission (PC) had arranged a meeting with top officials of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to discuss a plan for privatising the convention centre on January 22, 2019.
However, the cabinet body was told that the CDA chairman had failed to attend that meeting.
During the meeting of the cabinet committee, officials of the CDA, who own and manage the affairs of the centre, opposed the move.
CDA Member Estate, who had attended that meeting, said that the CDA had certain reservations on privatising the entity, citing certain by-laws of the civic agency.
The cabinet body was further told that the land on which the convention centre was built, was owned by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
They explained that for the federal government to initiate the privatization process for the convention centre, it was essential that the federal government have ownership of the land.
On learning this, the cabinet body directed the cabinet division to undertake the necessary steps to acquire the land of the Jinnah Convention Centre at the government’s notified rates.
The Jinnah Convention Centre is located at off the Kashmir Highway near the Islamabad Club and serves as the hub for large exhibitions and summits — whether by public bodies or by the private sector.
Construction on the project had started during the second tenure of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and it was completed in December 1996.
It is spread over several acres and has a covered area of 202,075 square feet.
It has several halls and galleries and the main convention hall with a seating capacity of 2,200 at a time.
It has three parking lots with a total capacity of over 600 cars. The convention centre has also five committee rooms and 32 smaller conference rooms.
It was inaugurated in 1997 and was used to host the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit.
The main hall is rented out for Rs300,000 per day to the government or private entities to hold their annual convocation ceremonies and educational exhibitions.
Even the government holds major events and ceremonies to mark national days such as August 14, March 23 and September 6.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2019.