Tuesday July 23, 2024

Free flour distribution: Unruly mob damages cricket stadium in Peshawar

By Mushtaq Yusufzai
April 02, 2023

PESHAWAR: The mismanagement was at its peak on Saturday and this time the venue was the Hayatabad Sports Complex in Peshawar, where hundreds of people who had gathered to collect free flour bags at the flour distribution centre, lost patience and started damaging the newly built international cricket stadium.

A blame-game ensued as nobody was willing to take the blame for the mismanagement that caused heavy losses to the stadium built at a cost of more than Rs2 billion by the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government for international cricket under the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and International Cricket Council (ICC).

The mob damaged the glass windows, chairs, main gate. The recently prepared pitches, walls, plants, cricket’s new pavilion in which foreign made glasses were used were also damaged besides walls panel and vehicles of the contractors, Administrator of the Hayatabad Sports Complex Shah Faisal said during a visit to the site.

The insufficient measures taken by the district administration failed to prevent the people from looting flour bags amid heavy firing, baton-charge and teargas shelling by the local police in and outside the sports complex.

Babar Khan, an official of the Hayatabad Police Station, told The News that he had registered cases against a mob as they couldn’t recognise the people who forcibly entered the sports complex and started throwing stones at the windowpanes of the stadium.

“The distribution process was going on smoothly when some people outside the stadium tried to enter the sports complex by force as the stadium was already packed with people. The mob went out of control and caused some damage but the police controlled the situation and resumed the distribution process,” the police officer explained. The road remained closed for hours as the police had to fire warning shots and used batons and teargas to disperse the mob to prevent more damage to the stadium.

“We registered an FIR against the mob and didn’t nominate anyone by name. We could not make any arrest,” the police officer said. He said there were no casualties in the incident. Caretaker Food Minister Fazal Elahi Khan held the people responsible for the mismanagement, saying the government wanted to give relief to them but they did not cooperate with the administration. “Luckily there were no casualties but whatever happened could have been avoided. We are going to discuss it with the authorities as to why they chose the stadium for flour distribution,” the minister said.

He said he was personally not in favour of the flour distribution and had suggested the government to provide cash to deserving people.

“I am personally in favour of cash amount for the deserving people registered under Benazir Income Support Programme,” he said. He said the government had directed the district administration to avoid distributing flour at open venues like stadiums.

“When you select an open space, it attracts a large number of people and it becomes difficult for the government to control them. That’s what happened in Hayatabad where the people lost patience and started looting and damaging the infrastructure,” said the food minister. Besides Peshawar, there were similar incidents of violence and looting in Shangla and Swat districts

Meanwhile, Director General Sports Khalid Khan told the Associated Press of Pakistan that they had given the parking lot of the Hayatabad Sports Complex on the request of the district administration, including the commissioner and deputy commissioner Peshawar.