Intended for recreational use and leisurely breaks, public parks provide spaces for relaxation in bustling cities. However, a moment of repose in beautiful environs can only be enjoyed if these spaces are meticulously tended to by the management. A public park in Rawalpindi, named after the incumbent prime minister, is fast losing its charm due to inefficient management.
Spread over 28 acres, Nawaz Sharif Park, once a lush and beautiful respite, has now fallen prey to the management’s apathy and is badly in need of renovation and maintenance. One of the few recreational spots in Rawalpindi, the park was inaugurated by Nawaz Sharif during his second term as prime minister. Owing to its serene atmosphere, well-pruned jogging tracks, beautiful fountains and swings, the park used to attract a large number of visitors including children. Now, however, the garden presents a much less rosy picture, with broken swings, faded and dying greens, dysfunctional fountains and withered foliage. The negligence of the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) can be gauged from the fact that all three swings have either been stolen or removed from the park. Bare metal bars provide a testament to the swings of yesteryear. The washrooms in the park are always locked, inconveniencing visitors. Dried-up yellow patches indicate sad remnants of lush green grass.
While speaking to The Express Tribune, Mumtaz Khan, a visitor, said, “I have been frequenting this park for the last 10 years for jogging. During these years, I have noticed that each passing day, the park loses its charm. I visit regularly as I have no other option; otherwise the park has nothing special to offer”.
Another visitor, Rana Amin said, “I was expecting that after coming to power, Nawaz Sharif will take note of the pathetic condition of the park. However, no such thing happened.”
A park employee requesting anonymity said that with each passing day, the garden was losing visitors as well. “I am put in an awkward situation when visitors ask me about locked washrooms and broken swings, he said.
The park also lacks a clean drinking water facility, although a small water tank persists in dilapidated condition which is rarely used by visitors.
“The park doesn’t have much to offer anymore. Sharif is in power, he should direct the PHA to restore the park to its original form,” said Shaista Naz, a visitor.
When Park Administrator Waqas Abbasi was contacted, he conceded that the park was in a shabby condition. However, he claimed that he has taken up this issue with the PHA to obtain funds for its upkeep.
When asked about the broken swings, he said the scraps remained lying in the store room for months before the PHA repaired and shifted them to another park. He also claimed that efforts were underway to make the washrooms functional.
Moreover, some contractual employees of the park said that they had been denied their salaries for the last four months.”Without a salary, how can we be expected to sincerely work for the beautification of the park?” asked an employee, also said he has four children to feed at home. The park administrator, Abbasi, confirmed that some 70 contractual PHA employees in various parks have not been paid salaries for the last four months.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2013.