There’s many a slip between the cup and the construction of Doongi Ground


Despite the court’s clear orders, Punjab government is still to launch a development plan on famous Public Park, Doongi Ground, MM Alam Road, a site earlier earmarked for controversial construction of the multi-million project of IMAX theatre and Shopping Mall by former Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi.
LHC ordered the Punjab government to use only 18 percent of the land for the construction of a parking lot, library and a bowling alley and to reserve the rest of the area as a public park.
The decision came with another order for widening of Canal Road on September 16, 2011. Not sparing a thought, Punjab government started working of Canal Widening Project but remained self-prohibitive on the Doongi ground project.
Sources in CM Secretariat revealed to Pakistan Today that the government wanted to construct a digital library, a gymnasium, a bowling alley, a parking plaza, an eco-friendly park and a cricket ground at the cost of Rs 1,181.3 million and it had proposed the project to the court with PC-I. CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif approved the project in a presentation given by AL-IMAM on December 15, 2009 in Murree and on February 7 2010, they added. Sources said the project featured a library, gymnasium, bowling alley on 55,000 square feet, small bistro restaurant on 750 square feet, parking lots at 3 level basements at 26,300 square feet to accommodate 640 vehicles and a landscaping area of 3,00,000 square feet.
An official of CM Secretariat said since the court had rejected the government’s plan and had ordered it to use only 18 percent of the Park Land, the government was indecisive and was looking at other options.
LDA Chief Engineer Israr Saeed told Pakistan Today that the court’s decision did not fulfil the government’s demand and had stoked legal hitches. “Due to this hiccup, the LDA has put a mega plan of establishing a Central business District (CBD) in the city comprising of Jail Road, Main Boulevard, MM Alam Road, segment of Hali Road and Sharae Noor Jehan, Gulberg for creating more investment, business and employment opportunities in the city on a hold,” he said, adding that the MM Alam Road remodelling project worth Rs 290 million had also fallen victim to this delay.
Prior to 2008 general election, the CM had publicly announced that the original status of the park would be restored.
A ‘CONTROVERSIAL’ PAST: The IMAX theatre project, brainchild of former CM Pervaiz Elahi, was announced in 2003 with completion deadline in 2005. Earlier it was planned on Ferozepur Road in front of Gaddafi Stadium with an estimated cost of Rs 400 million. The government bought 92 kanals for the project. Later it was shifted to Doongi Ground that stirred a controversy. In 2006, NGO Shehri-CBE (Citizens for Better Environment), journalist Ardeshir Cowasjee, Mohammad & Ahmad (a public interest litigation company) and 11 residents of the area had challenged the construction of IMAX Theater at Doongi Ground during Prevaiz Elahi’s tenure as Punjab chief minister. On August 8, 2006, a single bench of the LHC, consisting of Justice Saeed Akhtar, now retired, stopped the provincial government from continuing the construction of the Cineplex. The stay order was vacated on March 9, 2007 by the LHC division bench and work was resumed. However, the petitioners moved another petition in the SC, which had stopped the work again and referred the case to LHC.
After the change of government, the present CM had put the project on hold over the financial irregularities. The government observed that provincial Finance Department released Rs 482.721 million for the theatre, Rs 520.371 million for the shopping mall (total cost Rs 820 million), and Rs 50 million for the PEC expenditures and the money’s use or future could not be ascertained and that the money had gone to waste.