The Punjab Civil Secretariat’s parking area has become a favourite place for car thieves owing to poor security and non-provision of parking slips to vehicle owners, causing a lot of inconvenience to visitors and government officers, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to Islampura Police Station’s record, 39 motorcycles and 14 cars have been stolen this year from the Baba Ground-the official parking area of the Civil Secretariat. The number also included vehicles stolen from the premises of the Civil Secretariat.
Hundreds of visitors as far as from Rajanpur and Rahim Yar Khan visited the Civil Secretariat on a daily basis. Upon reaching the gate, they were directed to park vehicles in the nearby Baba Ground, as the Punjab chief secretary had banned entry of private vehicles within the secretariat premises as part of security measures. This left hundreds of visitors and government servants coming to the secretariat at the mercy of thieves, which was proved by the police record.
“No one comes to the secretariat for recreation. People have important tasks to complete within office hours and everyone is in a rush. It is very shocking to know that a vehicle has been stolen from the official parking area of the most important government office. Bureaucratic red-tapism and minimum cooperation strains one’s energies already and vehicle theft proves to be the last nail in the coffin. Deploying proper security and issuing parking slips will not cost much,” said Wajid Akram, a visitor whose motorcycle was stolen from the Baba Ground last year.
A recent circular issued by the Welfare Wing of the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD) banned officials below the rank of an additional secretary to bring vehicles inside the secretariat. The moved caused resentment amongst young officers who had to leave their cars without any security on a daily basis.
“We have to obey the orders whatsoever. This is no secret that the parking area is not safe as once my car disappeared from the parking area, but was found after a couple of days out of nowhere. We have no voice in policy formulation at this level. Initially we were allowed to take our cars inside, but recently even that has been banned,” a section officer, seeking anonymity, said.
The decision had caused a lot of inconvenience to police officials already burdened with security and routine crimes. A police official deployed near the Baba Ground, seeking anonymity said, “Senior government officials and lawyers park their vehicles in the Baba Ground. If we stop someone to show us their documents, our inquiry is called, our seniors are influenced and even they reprimand us. The on-duty staff is facing a double-edged sword. People always think it’s because of the negligence of police officials and no one asks the concerned officials to deploy security guards or issue parking slips to visitors for the safety of their vehicles so that we can at least identify the culprits.”
Sources in the S&GAD told Pakistan Today that according to the revenue record, the ground actually belonged to the Punjab Assembly (PA), but in 1929, the Punjab University took over the land. In 1986, the ground was again handed over to the PA but the university continued using the ground for sports and other functions.
They said that the secretariat got permission from the PA to use the ground for parking, which was initially stayed by the Lahore High Court in favour of the university, but after an appeal, the LHC recently vacated the stay, allowing the secretariat to use it as a parking area. They said that the parking area was being used for the district and sessions court and the secretariat.
Moreover, local residents also used the ground for organising weddings and playing cricket. According to sources, former Punjab chief secretary Javed Mehmood had planned a new parking area in the basement of the secretariat building, but the plan was shelved after his transfer and owing to the ongoing austerity drive.
S&GAD Welfare Wing Additional Secretary Ahmed Aziz Tarar said that the ground was a disputed property and deploying security at the ground would give the impression that the secretariat had occupied it.