-Failure to maintain infrastructure, lack of basic amenities, and absence of initiative dull the appeal of capital’s two biggest gathering spots
ISLAMABAD: The construction of Jinnah Convention Centre located near the red zone and Pak-China Friendship Centre located near Chaand Tara Chowk, Shakarparian, was completed back in 1997 and 2010 respectively. These two buildings are the most sought-after, easily accessible spots for large gatherings in the twin cities.
Be it seminars, conferences, book fares, business expos, board meetings or any other event, both the government and private sector prefer to hold big events either at either of the two places due to ease of access, large hall capacity and affordable rates as compared to high-end hotels and clubs.
During a recent visit to the Jinnah Convention Centre, this scribe observed that the restrooms there were in shambles and a majority of the seats, sofas and other furniture was either in need of repair or was broken. More importantly, the absence of a proper cafeteria has forced students, participants and the visitors to the convention centre to walk for kilometres to reach Aabpara or Bara Kahu for food and water.
The centre, also known as the National Convention Centre was originally the brainchild of former prime minister, (PM) Benazir Bhutto to commemorate 50 years of Pakistan’s existence on the world map. Although the work was initiated and largely completed during her second tenure, she was not in power at the time of its inauguration and therefore, the project was launched by her successor and now deposed premier, Nawaz Sharif.
The first event to take place at the convention centre which is aptly named after Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the first extraordinary summit of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
It is pertinent to mention here that according to official documents that surfaced in the media back in 2014, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had earmarked the convention centre for privatisation, however, the plans were shelved later on.
The Pak-China Friendship Centre, on the other hand, is a gift from the people of China to their Pakistani brothers and sisters. It was built by China at the cost of 3 billion Pakistani rupees and inaugurated by disgraced PM Yousaf Raza Gillani.
Spread over an area of 12 acres, the state-of-the-art, scenic centre boasts lush green lawns, easy access from the heart of the city, a main hall with a seating capacity of 800, exhibition halls, boardrooms, art galleries, 105 apartments, study rooms, 8 conference halls with a capacity of 200 persons each and a cinema.
During the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) meeting last month, the city managers’ mismanagement and lack of concern were evident. The reading rooms were locked and gathering dust as they were never operationalised or opened for the general public, a large number of floor tiles were missing and the washrooms were simply unusable.
“Other than zero concern and initiative for cleanliness and maintenance, I’ve observed that prayer rooms for women are almost always locked and it is really hard for us to offer prayers,’ said Bushra Khanum, a frequent visitor at the expo.
The third venue of a similar scale has also been in the eye of the storm. The newly inaugurated Metropolitan Club in F-9 park invited the wrath of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in April 2018.
The project is now in doldrums as mere days after its inauguration, NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal has taken notice and directed Rawalpindi NAB Director General (DG), Irfan Mangi to initiate an inquiry into the 1.9 billion rupees project.