A cricket ground on an amenity plot named after a recent captain of the Pakistani team, Sarfaraz Ahmed, has been a centre of controversy since a college started to function on the same plot around two years ago.
The Sarfaraz Ahmed Cricket Academy and the Government College for Women are both situated on plot ST-7 spreading over seven acres in North Nazimabad Block N. Besides the academy and the college, a primary school under the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and the office of a KMC deputy director education are also located on the ground, popularly known as Kaka Ground. Some also call it Sakhi Hassan Gymkhana.
Residents of the area say that the plot was being used as a playground for decades. However, the acting principal of the college, which started operations two years ago and its building was constructed between 2010 and 2019, claims that the entire plot belongs to the college.
The principal claims that the ground was an integral part of the college but the cricket academy’s management says that some piece of land was carved out from the ground for the purpose of a college building under the supervision of former town nazim Mumtaz Hamid. According to the cricket academy, the college was supposed to be built on another amenity land but somehow its site plan was changed and it was relocated to a portion of the ground.
On January 26, the incharge principal of the college, Prof Haseen Fatima, who mentions herself as the project director of the college on her visiting card, moved an application to the Taimuria police station requesting the police to ensure safe environment for her college students.
She stated in her application that on January 25, the 4th Sindh College Games were being held on the ground when a person named Naveed-ul-Amin threatened her and hurled abusive language.
She added that another person named Rajab made video of girl students and locked the entrance of the ground from the college despite being told not to do so. The principal asked the police to provide safe environment to the college students.
Interestingly, two years ago on February 7, 2020, Prof Fatima had filed a similar complaint to the District Central deputy commissioner through the Directorate of College Education Karachi.
In addition to the applications for safe environment, the principal has also alleged that some land grabbers have been trying to capture the ground on the pretext of running the cricket academy. On November 16, 2021, she wrote to the college directorate that when the college was handed over to her by the college education works department, its playground had already been grabbed by two men, Zia Ahmed and Jalil Khan, in the name of Sarfaraz Ahmed Cricket Academy.
“The college boundary walls were not constructed by [the] builder. The college building [is] surrounded by bungalows and has only two entrances. One entrance is through [the] playground and the other is situated between the two bungalows,” she wrote and alleged that both the entrances were not accessible to the students and college staff due to land grabbers.
Prof Fatima went on to claim that the land grabbers were continuously threatening her, students and their parents, due to which students had not been attending their classes properly. She requested the college directorate to take immediate action against the land grabbers and issue an order for the construction of a boundary wall to secure the amenity land.
The principal told The News that the college was inaugurated in 2020 and around 450 students are currently enrolled there.
However, she explained that the college was initially not to be built on the Kaka Ground as it was proposed on an amenity plot ST-1 of seven acres in North Nazimabad Block G. The site plan was later relocated to the current location in North Nazimabad Block N.
She did not clarify how and by whom the college’s location was changed. Prof Fatima said the PC-1 for the college was prepared in 2004. The construction work started in 2010 and the main structure was raised in 2012. The college complex comprising several buildings was completed in 2019 and a year later, the works department handed it over to her.
Zia, whom the principal has accused of being a land grabber, happens to be the first cousin of former caption Sarfaraz. His house is located adjacent to the ground and he claims to be living there for several decades.
He told The News that the ground was developed in early 1970s when people started to populate the North Nazimabad area. He claimed that locals of the area developed the ground themselves.
According to him, the KMC in 1986 established a school and later, an office of the deputy director education was also built on one side of the playground. However, these educational institutions never claimed that the entire ground belonged to them.
He maintained that the management of the KMC school and director office knew well that youths playing in the ground were residents of the same area and not land grabbers by any means.
“This is a memorial cricket ground for many national cricketers who played here and started their international career. They include Sarfaraz Ahmed, Asad Shafiq, Anwar Ali, Saad Ali, Ahsan Ali and others,” Zia said, adding that two players of the cricket academy were currently part of the under-13 and under-19 national cricket teams.
Khan, the other person accused of being a land grabber by the principal, shared a similar story. “We offer free training to those who are interested in cricket. We are not land grabbers but we are residents of the same area where we were born and raised. There was no college when we used to play here. It was an amenity plot. We are not the ones who shifted the college building from one amenity plot to another, but the authorities brought the college here that was supposed to be built somewhere else,” he said.
Khan also pointed out that there was no need for a girls college there because another government girls college was located at a distance of a few furlongs from the playground. However, he added that the cricket academy had no issues with the college as the complex was on one side of the ground and the remaining area was still large enough for holding cricket matches.
“We believe it is a positive development that two colleges have been built by the government in the same locality. We are happy that they are educating children of the area. We are not different than educators. We have been training cricketers so that they can earn a good name for the country.”
Khan stated that if the government wanted them to vacate the ground, they would not resist. “We are ready to wind up the academy if any concerned department of the government officially notifies us to leave the playground. But it is very embarrassing to associate the management of the academy named after a player who led the Pakistani team internationally and under his captaincy Pakistan won the Champions Trophy with land grabbers,” he remarked.
The playground famously known as Kaka Ground was renamed after Sarfaraz when Pakistan won the ICC Champions Trophy under his captaincy in 2017.
Zia said that when Sarfaraz returned after the victory, then Karachi mayor Wasim Akhtar visited his house to congratulate him and announced on the occasion that the Kaka Ground would be renamed after him and the KMC would convert the playground into a world-class cricket facility.
Later in 2017, the KMC prepared the PC-1 for the construction of the Sarfaraz Ahmed Cricket Academy. Akhtar, Sarfaraz and DMC Central Chairman Rehan Hashmi attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the project. However, no construction for the academy took place and the only change witnessed there was the barren ground turning grassy. However, that change also could not last long as the grass dried up and the place now looks as barren as it was before.
Responding to the recent complaints filed by the college principal, the cricket academy has written a letter to District Central SSP Malik Murtaza stating that if there was any encroachment on the plot, it was the college complex.
The academy maintained in the letter that when the works department started construction of the college, the residents of the locality were assured that the ground would not be handed over to the education department and a boundary would be drawn to fix the limits of the playground and the college complex.
“We assure the residents of the area that the Safaraz Ahmed Cricket Academy is not involved in any kind of land grabbing,” the letter read.
The academy also alleged that the college was not functional and it was without proper furniture, lights and fans. The letter accused the principal of letting several families stay in the college complex.
“The academy management demands that the college be made functional so that more girls of the vicinity could get access to education,” the letter read. It added that instead of make the college functional, the principal was trying to take over the playground that did not belong to the college.
The cricket academy maintained that the principal was trying to malign an institute named after Sarfaraz Ahmed to gain undue attention.
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