by Aamir Majeed
Clifton residents have expressed dismay after the paramilitary Rangers took over Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) Punjab Colony Sports Ground a few days ago.
The troops of the federal force, along with over 200 cots, reached the ground a few days ago and set up camp. The paramilitary force took over the sports ground and directed the representatives of cricket, football and hockey clubs to pack up and leave.
The federal force appeared to have long term plans to stay in the ground after they started putting up makeshift arrangements. The rooms allotted to the sports clubs were occupied after forced eviction of the officials concerned. Even a CBC camp office in the sports ground was vacated after the arrival of the paramilitary troops.
The 4.9-acre CBC Punjab Colony Sports Ground is located on the way to Sunset Boulevard from Punjab Chowrangi.
This is the only ground that caters to the residents of Delhi Colony, Punjab Colony, Chandio Village, Gabol Colony and Madni Abad. The only other open space in the area, a ground in Delhi Colony, has been turned into a family park by the CBC.
“At night, a heavy contingent of paramilitary force arrived in the ground and started off-loading luggage from their trucks,” a resident of Saira Apartment, located in front of the main entrance of Punjab Colony Sports Ground, told Pakistan Today on condition of anonymity.
“When I left home for office the next day, the Rangers had settled in their makeshift arrangements,” the resident said.
CBC HAS TRIED TO TAKE OVER THE GROUND BEFORE:
This is not the first time that someone has tried to take over the CBC cricket ground. In January 2014, the administration of CBC itself tried to turn the ground into a marriage lawn. The representatives of the three clubs fought the CBC tooth and nail and eventually saved their ground. The club’s representatives also held a protest demonstrations against CBC administration for its efforts to monetise the sports ground. The CBC moved court to get the ground vacated but the residents held on.
The representatives of the clubs then sought the help of political parties to block the CBC’s move.
Irfan Niazi, a representative of Modern Cricket Club, got in touch with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice President Asad Umar on twitter and sought his party’s help to prevent the CBC from turning the sports ground into a marriage lawn.
Asad Umar connected him with PTI’s MNA from the same constituency (NA-250) Dr Arif Alvi, who promised to stop the commercialisation of the sports ground. The clubs finally prevailed and the CBC withdrew their case from the court after six months.
In a visit to the ground, Pakistan Today saw some masons reconstructing the broken walls under the supervision of the Rangers personnel. Some were painting the boundary walls of the sports ground.
On the main gate of the ground, a few personnel of the federal force were seen monitoring the installation of a walkthrough gate. Anyone entering the ground is stopped and asked to produce credentials.
When, NK Iqbal, the Rangers official checking the credentials, was asked about the Modern Cricket Club, Mohammedan Football Club and Popular Hockey Club, he said all the sports clubs have been removed from the ground.
Modren Cricket Club Vice President (VP) Kamran Niazi said that the Rangers have put an end to their sports activities.
“The federal force has deployed its personnel on the main gate of the ground and they don’t allow any club member or official to come inside. However, the Rangers have allowed the children to come inside and play,” Niazi said.
“The paramilitary force has created a standard operating procedure whereby the three clubs have to get permission before holding a game in the ground,” Niazi said.
“Our club has been registered with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) since 1973. We have been holding matches regularly since then, but now we would have to take permission.”
A TWIST IN THE TAIL, RANGERS MAY HAVE BEEN INVITED BY THE CBC ADMINISTRATION:
CBC Sports Committee Chairman and Mohammedan Football Club President Hameed Chandio when approached for comment, claimed that the representatives of the cricket, football and hockey clubs visited the Sindh Rangers headquarters and requested them to vacate the ground and spare it for sports, but the Rangers officials claimed that they have been invited in the ground by the CBC.
Chandio, who was also elected as councilor in the last local bodies elections, claimed that when he made contacts with the CBC higher-ups, they said that the Rangers had arrived there to accomplish their mission and would leave after that mission is completed.
“We will hold a meeting with the CBC in the next few days and if the Rangers don’t vacate the ground, we will launch a protest against this illegal occupation,” Chandio maintained.
RANGERS’ PREVIOUS EXPLOITS, LOCALS ARE NOT OVER REACTING:
This is not the first time the Rangers have set their eyes on a prime spot to build their base. In fact, they have developed a reputation for being the camel, which got its nose in the tent.
In 2006, the Rangers were given permission to adopt temporary residence in Karachi Development Authority (KDA) officers’ bungalows situated near the National Stadium. Later the paramilitary force was asked to vacate the bungalows, but they refused. Even the Sindh High Court (SHC) failed to get the Rangers to end their occupation.
The Rangers have occupied Karachi University boys’ hostel since 1989. The paramilitary force was called inside the campus to handle the prevailing law and order situation. Since then, however, they have occupied the boys’ hostel which accommodates at least 1,000 students. The federal force has now established a full wing on the occupied land.
Rangers also took over a hostel at the NED University of Engineering and Technology for providing security to varsity; a compound at the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology Gulshan-e-Iqbal Campus; classrooms at the Dawood College of Engineering and Technology, Sindh Medical University, Dow University of Health Sciences as well as academic and hostel blocks at the Government College of Technology, SITE and Jamia Millia, Malir.
Apart from university dorms and rooms, Rangers have also occupied Mitha Ram Hostel which was built to accommodate students at the DJ Science College. They have also taken over the Sir Leslie Wilson Muslim Hostel, better known as Jinnah Courts and use it as their headquarters.
In 2008, the Rangers were given permission to manufacture blocks on the ground of the University of Karachi (KU) by the varsity security adviser Prof Dr Khalid Iraqi for a period of six months. They Rangers stayed on the ground, manufacturing concrete blocks, for eight years. The paramilitary force intercepted the main water pipeline of Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) to use sweet water for manufacturing blocks. Due to this puncture in the KWSB water pipeline, the residents of Gulistan-e-Jauhar, residing opposite to KU, had to face acute water shortage for nearly eight years.
CBC spokesman Amir Arab, when contacted for comment, said he has no information in this regard.
Sindh Rangers spokesman Major Sibtain also said he did not know about the Rangers taking over the ground.