Development interrupted: Harno amusement park falls prey to ‘political meddling’

Project shelved in wake of criminal allegations.


The site for the proposed Harno amusement park has become a picnic spot for families in the vicinity. PHOTO :MUHAMMAD SADAQAT/EXPRESS

ABBOTABAD:


The much anticipated amusement park in Harno is likely to be scrapped due to political meddling and obstacles created by landowners, insiders told The Express Tribune on Sunday.


Former provincial minister for sports and tourism Syed Aqil Shah had launched the project as a public-private partnership (PPP) in February. Jodat, a private company was arranging Rs3 billion in funding,

The amusement city was to be built on 50 acres of land on the Daur riverside near Harno Azizabad Village, some 10 kilometres from the main city.

The five-phase project – scheduled to be completed in eight years – was to offer recreational facilities to tourists. Some of the intended attractions included a heritage park, wildlife zoo, amusement park, water sports, a hotel, jogging tracks, rock climbing, and paragliding.

To make the project happen, Jodat entered a lease contract with over 30 landowners in Harno Aziz Abad and adjoining localities. According to an agreement, the company would pay Rs2,500 per kanal per year to the owners with an annual increment of 30%. The lease was meant to last for 36 years, according to sources familiar with the matter.



Jodat took former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Barrister Javed Abbasi on board, apparently as a partner. Abbasi could not be reached for a comment on the matter.

When the lease agreements were documented by the revenue department, some landowners, opposed to the project, raised objections and protested against the project.

Meanwhile, 30 agreements were signed between land owners and a five-member committee representing Jodat.

Landowners against the project approached the revenue department registrar in Abbottabad, and alleged illegalities and anomalies in the transfer deeds.

The registrar proceeded to “deregister” the land transfers and recommended legal action against the Jodat committee.

When the police did not register a case, landowners Ashraf Tanoli, Sajid Awan, Shamraiz Awan and others filed an application with the district judge Abbottabad seeking the registration of a criminal case against the committee members.

“We received court orders directing us to register a case against those who were accused of finalising illegal land-transfer deeds in Harno,” said Abbottabad SHO Shaheen Khan.

When approached, Jamaat-e-Islami district leader Razzaq Abbasi, a vocal opponent of the Harno Park, claimed the project was a “fraud”. He added the committee representing Jadot had cheated landowners and illegally transferred land in the company’s name.

However members of the committee Javed Khan and Aurangzeb denied the charges.

Ahmed Ali Khan Jadoon, who runs a recreational park, thought Harno was a good initiative but accused the provincial government which was responsible for implementing the public-private partnership of not being serious.

“They were just trying to attract funding from donors. Had they dealt with the matter in an organised fashion, Harno Park would have been promoting tourism.”

Harno Park Project Director Kaleemuddin alleged political point scoring was the main obstacle the park was currently facing. “Not only has it deprived 532 young people of employment, it has also stopped economic activity in the area.”

The project director maintained the company had additional plans to develop small parks in Haripur, Mansehra and Kaghan. “But after this bitter experience, we were forced to put these projects on the backburner.”

Kaleemuddin denied any illegality on Jodat’s part; if there were faults on the committee’s part, they should have been addressed instead of forcing the project to be shelved, he insisted.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2013.

COMMENTS (1)

safriz | 8 years ago | Reply

Landowners were the main problem..they were way too greedy an non cooperative.In Pakistan the people complain there are no development plans but if there are any,its the people who kill the project due to their greed and stubbornness. Harno,the area where the theme park was to be built ,looks like an area from ice age,and will continue to look so in the foreseeable future. This project was a great opportunity ,regretfully strangle by people themselves.

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