The Punjab government has halted all paper work with immediate effect concerning the conversion of a controversial IMAX theatre into a public park, library, restaurant, gymnasium and parking lots at the Doongi Ground, MM Alam Road, Gulberg, Pakistan Today has learnt.
A Chief Minister’s Secretariat official, asking not be named, said that the Punjab government’s legal experts had cautioned the provincial administration that another contempt of court petition could be filed if construction work on the project was not halted.
He said that in July 2010, a contempt of court petition was filed against Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for allegedly giving approval for the construction of a library, restaurant and car parking lot at the Doongi Ground in violation of the court’s order which restricted construction of an IMAX theatre and maintained status quo in all respects.
He said that a full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) consisting of Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman had disposed of the contempt of court petition after the Punjab government’s lawyer assured the court that the CM would abide by the court’s order.
A Lahore Development Authority (LDA) official said the provincial government had taken steps for transforming the project and mentioned the issue in the minutes of a LDA meeting held on May 25. According to the minutes of the meeting seen by Pakistan Today, the Doongi Ground’s conversion was approved and work would start on the project after clearance from the LHC.
The salient features of the project included construction of a library, gymnasium, bowling alley measuring 55,000 square feet, a small restaurant measuring 750 square feet, three-level parking lots measuring 26,300 square feet for accommodating 640 vehicles and a landscaping area measuring 0.3 million square feet.
The concepts of the project were approved by the Punjab CM in presentations given by M/S Al-Imam at Murree on December 15, 2009 and at Jallo Park on February 7, 2010. The meeting had sought approval of Rs 1181.304 million for the project and consultancy charges of Al-Imam at 3.5 percent for design and 2 percent for resident supervision.
A LDA official confirmed that proceeding with the project’s execution would violate the court’s stay order and the situation had raised some eyebrows in the government departments. Interestingly, the LDA meeting was chaired by former Lahore district coordination officer (DCO) Sajjad Ahmed Bhutta who was removed on corruption charges.