The principal of a Karachi college has accused former captain and current national team cricketer Safaraz Ahmed of illegally taking over the playground area of the college and asked the authorities concerned to take the issue “seriously.”
In a video shared widely on Twitter, the educator introduces herself as Government Degree College, Block N, North Nazimabad Principal Haseen Fatima. The video was uploaded by Twitter user Hasan Ahmed, who shared in the thread that the principal is his mother.
“I have taken charge of seven acres of the college and Sarfaraz, the cricketer, has encroached on this ground,” she said, while surrounded by students and staff.
The ground, which the principal claimed to belong to the school, is called Kaka Ground. It was apparently renamed after Sarfaraz after he led Pakistan to victory in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.
In the plaque unveiling ceremony on December 10, 2017, the then Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar had laid the foundation stone during the event and announced his intention to convert the playground into a “world-class cricket” facility.
However, the development was still apparently contentious as another plaque is also present at the site with the date December 6.
The school principal stated that there were no issues with the cricketers when the college was not yet functional. But from the last year, the seven-acre college under her charge, has been functional, she added.
“This year, the school has around 500 admissions,” she said, adding that as many as 14 teams of Karachi are present on the site that came to play on the ground.
On the prevailing situation, she said the gates were locked and their students’ buses and teachers vehicles were not allowed to enter the ground.
“I am getting threats from yesterday that we will do something with you. My life is in danger and despite that, I am standing for my girls. Because I am the custodian of this college. It’s my duty to do everything possible in my endeavour to save my college,” the principal said.
In the same thread, a conversation in audio clips believed to have taken place between the principal and an individual reportedly reponsible for the ground has also been shared, in which the principal can be heard telling him not to use threatening langauge.
In the video message that was uploaded on social media, the principal said that those illegally occupying the college premises were insisting that staff and students enter the school from the other gate. According to her, the other entrance to the college was in an area which was relatively unsafe, leaving students vulnerable to street crime.
“I have this request to kindly care for the future of our children,” Fatima said, amid students shouting “Sarfaraz give us our ground back".
Fatima added that she had also registered a report with the relevant police station although she stopped short of naming the politicians she claimed were involved in the encroachment.
“I want to request everyone that these children are Karachi’s children… they are not my personal children. They are Karachi's children. This a team that came here to play and this is your team. And Mr Sarfaraz you should build a girls cricket academy in the college,” she said.
So far, Aaj News has not contacted the team manager of Pakistan cricket as players are not allowed to directly speak to the media under the PCB Central Contract, while efforts to contact the Sarfaraz Ahmed Cricket Academy have proven unsuccessful so far.
According to The News report, the cricket ground, which is on an amenity plot, has been at the centre of a 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,” it read.
It added that Fatima on January 26 moved an application to the Taimuria Police Station and requested cops to ensure a safe environment for her college students.
The 4th Sindh College Games were being held on the ground when a person named Naveed-ul-Amin threatened her and hurled abusive language, according to the application. “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,” it read.
She had filed a similar complaint to the District Central deputy commissioner through the Directorate of College Education Karachi on February 7, 2020. “In addition to the applications for a 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.”
The principal told the newspaper 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,” it read.
Reacting to the development, the cricket academy has written a letter to District Central SSP Malik Murtaza. It alleged that if there was any encroachment on the plot, it was the college complex.
“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,” it read.