While Pakistan Peace XI and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa XI were battling it out for glory at the packed Arbab Niaz Stadium on October 13, 2013, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan announced his decision to construct mini sports arenas in all tehsils of the province. The announcement met with a roar of jubilation as the city saw its national stars in action after a seven-year hiatus and the decision gave the people hope to see their children rise to the same level through these facilities. However, 21 months later, progress only seems to have been made on paper as not a single stadium has seen the light of day.
According to a document obtained from the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs through the K-P Right to Information Act 2013, a total of Rs4.725 billion – Rs3.6 billion for land acquisition and Rs1.125 billion for construction – was set aside for these projects in the PC-1 during the fiscal year 2014-15. At least 47 grounds should have been ready by June this year. However things have not gone according to the plan. The scheme was divided into phases and the total stipulated time was 36 months and no major escalation of costs was expected.
Each facility had a kitty comprising Rs48 million for purchase of land and Rs15 million for development. However, it seems local property owners are not willing to let their children pursue competitive sports. Construction tenders and change of sites have also added fuel to the fire.
According to a copy of the document available with The Express Tribune, the entire initiative is locally-funded and no foreign investment is expected. Sufficient funds have already been doled out while development is the responsibility of the communication and works department.
“Initially the government is acquiring land measuring 40 kanals in 36 tehsils each,” read the document. “The facilities will have a mini pavilion for 200 people, washrooms, changing rooms and a meeting room. These mini sports stadiums are for football, cricket, hockey basketball and volleyball.”
According to the document, the office is facing problems in purchasing private land for the playgrounds.
“In various districts, landowners are reluctant to spare their land for playgrounds,” it stated. “They say that the rates offered by the government are very low as it is acquiring the land on compulsory acquisition basis. Locals have approached district courts and started litigation against the move.”
Earlier, it was agreed only private land will be acquired and preference will be given to wasteland. However, following a meeting held on November 12, 2014, it was decided that land belonging to schools, colleges and small playgrounds in local neighbourhoods will be developed into modern sports complexes.
While little can be said about the on-ground progress in Phase-I, construction of more stadiums is on the cards for the second phase of the project. The documents state one more complex will be set up in DI Khan, four in Swat’s Matta, Kabal, Bahrain and Charbagh areas. Furthermore, government land has been acquired in Shangla and Mardan. Five grounds will be constructed in Lower Dir, two in Upper Dir, Mansehra, Swabi and Buner each. Additionally, Peshawar, Malakand, Upper Kohistan, Abbottabad, Lower Kohistan and Bannu will also have a sports complex each.
The directorate is however facing opposition land acquisition in Prova and Daraban areas of DI Khan, Alpuri in Shangla, Warri in Upper Dir, Judba in Tordher, Allai and Battagram tehsils in Battagram district, Katlang in Mardan, Mandanr in Buner, Havelian in Abbottabad, Pabbi in Nowshera and Domel in Bannu.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2015.