ISLAMABAD-Shalimar Cricket Ground F-7 is like a goldmine for its administration that is headed by Hassan Raza, nephew of former Test cricketer Majid Khan, as he freely charges hefty amount without spending a single penny on its development.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has been taking action against ground mafias in order to provide best cricketing facilities to the youngsters free of cost. In the first phase, the CDA sealed some grounds including Shalimar ground, but due to intervention of a highly-influential person, it was unlocked immediately, which is a great injustice with the local players. At one end, the CDA is doing operation clean-sweep and getting back possession of grounds but on the other hand, the Shalimar ground administration, which has been charging hefty amount of money, was allowed to continue with their money-minting policies.

Shalimar cricket ground has a long history. The place was a dense forest and it was almost impossible to play even tape ball cricket there in late 1980s. Etzaz Azim, a sincere and cricket-mad guy, with the help of his friends, managed to get allocated a piece of land from the then CDA chairman Fareedullah in mid 80s and constructed the present infrastructure, with his nameplate is still lying at one corner of the ground. He himself used to play cricket on regular basis, despite being a heart patient.

Soon after his death on December 1, 1995, which was occurred, when he was playing a cricket match for Margalla Gentlemen Cricket Club, his sister Nighat Saeed took over the helm of affairs and was soon introduced with legendry Majid Khan in late 90s. A 5-meber committee, including Nighat Saeed, Hassan Raza, Majid Khan, golfer Taimoor Hasan and former president Musharraf ADC Major Tanveer, was formed to run the affairs of the ground in a highly-professional manner.

Talking to The Nation, Nighat confirmed The Nation that the ground was allocated to his late brother Etzaz in late 80s. “My brother was a passionate cricketer and used to play cricket here. After his death, I had been running the affairs of the ground for 5 years before Hassan Raza and Talat Hussain took over the helm of affairs. We developed differences on a number of things mainly on audit, as I had stressed on audit of the ground annually so I was sidelined. Now on different occasions, I arrange exhibition cricket matches here,” she added.

She confirmed that she had received a lot of complaints regarding excessive money being charged to allow certain individuals to utilise services at the venue.

When this scribe asked Nighat about former CDA chairman Kamran Lashari’s orders to hand over the possession of Shalimar Ground back to the CDA, Nighat said: “Yes, we did receive a notice, but strangely the entire record related to Shalimar ground went missing from the CDA. I can’t confirm where the record has disappeared. When asked whether she also had to pay handsome amount of money to conduct exhibition matches here, Nighat first refused to answer the question, but later, she said: “Yes.”

When contacted CDA Chairman Sheikh Ansar, he said: “I have received a lot of complaints not only about hefty ground charges but also regarding some sensitive complaints. I am investigating the matter and let me assure all, I will not let the culprits off the hook. The cricket grounds are CDA’s property, if we have permitted some individuals or Islamabad Cricket Association (ICA) to run the affairs of the grounds, we can also take their possession back.”

“We have received complaints mainly on National Cricket Ground, which we sealed immediately, but the concerned person took stay from the honourable court. We are law abiding citizens, so we have referred the case to our law department, which is handling it now. But we will take possession of all the grounds back and provide basic facilities to genuine cricketers and sports lovers,” he added.

When this scribe contacted CDA Assistant Director Sports and Culture Chaudhry Shahzad to seek his point of view, Shahzad confirmed: “The CDA is holding the possession of a few grounds, while remaining grounds’ possession will be taken over as soon as high command pass on directives.”

Neither he refused nor accepted that Shalimar ground lease was cancelled by Kamran Lashri but agreed that he had heard from some CDA officials and this scribe information was accurate. “We have deployed our staff at different grounds and club cricket is in full swing without a single penny being charged. Everybody is allowed to come and after permission can play on these grounds and enjoy facilities.”

When this scribe contacted Hassan Raza, he denied charging huge money from local clubs. “Yes, we charged from oil giants, multinationals and private people, as we had to run day-to-day-affairs, besides paying salaries of the staff and keeping facilities update. We can’t allow multinationals and rich people to play for free, but our facilities are available free for local clubs.”

The CDA should appoint a 5-member committee consisting of IRCA, sports journalists, CDA and ICCI representatives to ensure smooth running of ground affairs as it will serve both purposes, cricket will continue and there will be no complaint regarding charges and other activities, otherwise, future of local cricketers is at stake.