ISLAMABAD - With Imran Khan sworn-in as the prime minister, sporting circles in general and Islamabad youth in particular have pinned high hopes on him.
The youth in Islamabad are quite hopeful that they would be provided justice and allowed to play at the lush green cricket grounds of the federal capital, which are under control of influential and so-called cricketing gods.
Even though the Supreme Court had directed Capital Development Authority to get the cricket grounds vacated, but the CDA failed to get back possession of the grounds, as powerful individuals use their good offices, even bash the civic agency’s officials, when they try to get back the grounds.
The mentioned cricket grounds are under possession of different private persons, as well as Islamabad Cricket Association, who are making money of these grounds by depriving the youth from playing there. These grounds are, though, property of the CDA but the influential people are using these like private properties.
Being a former cricketer and captain who powered Pakistan national cricket team to a world cup win in 1992, Khan, now in power, needs to look into the sorry state of affairs at different cricketing regions, and form an independent commission of inquiry to probe the assets of certain individuals, who for long have been occupying cricket grounds of the capital city. This act will enable the long-suffering youth of the city to get back their right to play.
Diamond Ground is under possession of powerful former PCB governing board member Shakil Shaikh, who despite having passed 3rd tenure as Islamabad Cricket Association president, is still enjoying all the benefits and making all decisions. Diamond is the busiest ground of the federal capital, as not only the private organisations book the venue for various competitions, but the PCB-sponsored tournaments are also played on this ground on regular basis.
Shakil Shaikh’s son Moied Shaikh also runs a private academy at the ground. There are lot of complaints that the academy collects hefty of charges from aspiring players who join it to excel in their careers.
Shalimar Cricket Ground, which is under control of Hassan Raza, a banker by profession, also serves as a gold mine for the possessors. Raza claims to be a nephew of Majid Khan. The ground was previously under control of Margalla Gentlemen, and was maintained by them, but due to sudden death of the man behind Margalla Gentlemen, certain individuals, slowly but gradually sidelined Nighat Saeed, a known social figure, who was instrumental in organising charity matches at the venue.
Once she was ousted, the ground became a happy hunting place. The CDA tried several times to get back possession of the ground and sealed the same for the purpose, but Raza used a high-profile person having close links with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and the ground was handed over to him again within minutes.
It is high time now that CDA takes back possession of all cricket grounds of the federal capital and let the youth enjoy free-of-cost cricket.
Another ground called National Cricket Ground was also controlled by a private person, Shabbir Ahmed, but it was finally vacated. The ground is now controlled by another private person, Abid Kiynai, a close friend of Mayor of Islamabad Sheikh Ansar Aziz, but he is said to have never charged money from youth and has also worked hard to maintain the ground and regular cricket is witnessed ever since Kiyani took the possession of the ground.
Another cricket ground, Marghzar is also under possession of private persons. It should also be vacated and handed over to the CDA, while Bhutto Cricket Ground and few other grounds have already been vacated by CDA from the illegal occupants.
When contacted, Ch Shahzad Yasin, assistant director sports and in-charge of CDA Sports Wing, said that it hurt to see kids and youngsters wanting to play but having no appropriate grounds thanks to certain influential individuals. He claimed that whenever the CDA tried to carry out an operation to get back the grounds, they have to face a lot of pressure, adding that the possessors even tortured CDA officials.
We are ready to maintain these grounds, without charging a single penny from the youth and cricket clubs. If budget is allocated for the CDA Sports Wing and the required staff is provided, we would charge nothing from the youth, adding that they could maintain the grounds better than others.