KARACHI, May 6: While the illegal construction recently started in the historic Pucca Qila in Hyderabad has reportedly been stopped, the Sindh culture department has taken no action against anyone involved in the illegal act. Nor has it tried to fix the responsibility on any official, it is learnt.
Pucca Qila is protected under the Antiquities Act, which prohibits any kind of construction within its protected area and prescribes long prison terms and heavy fines for the violators.
Sources said that before the department could initiate any action in this regard, the construction work had been suspended probably to double check if the activity was a violation of the act or any other law.
The department’s assistant director, Abdul Haque Bhanbhro, had informed the Karachi head office of the department that a gymnasium was being constructed inside the protected site with the MNA fund allocated to Mr Salahuddin of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
Mr Bhanbhro’s report stated that the identified piece of land fell within the boundaries of the protected area where such constructions were prohibited. It urged the authorities concerned to stop the quarters concerned from carrying out the construction work.
Responding to Dawn’s queries, the culture department’s archeology director, Qasim Ali Qasim, said that immediately after receiving the report, he directed the official concerned to issue a notice to the government agencies tasked with the construction work asking them to stop the activity immediately.
According to Mr Qasim, the funds provided for the construction may have been allocated for the scheme proposed by the MNA but in this case the money has to be released to some government agency engaged for the execution of the scheme. “It must be in the knowledge of the fact that Pucca Qila is a protected site where such an activity is prohibited,” he said, adding that notices would be issued to the agency to seek an explanation.
Mr Bhanbharo said he did not know if any order had been issued on his report as he had left for Moenjodaro soon after sending his report to the head office. He also expressed his unawareness that which government agency had undertaken the construction work.
The culture department’s deputy director, Mazhar Ali Meerani, also appeared to be unaware of any order having been issued on the report because he had been to his village for some time and would resume his duties on Monday.
He said if any order pertaining to the issue had been issued during this period, he would look into it.
When he was asked about the government agency that had undertaken the job, he said he knew nothing about it.
When culture secretary Aziz Uqaily was contacted to seek information on the issue, he said that the construction work in Pucca Qila was being carried out under an ADP-approved scheme. He said he would take up the matter with the additional chief secretary with a request to find out how the scheme got through the official checks when it pertained to an activity prohibited under the law.
Experts said they were surprised that the type of construction works prohibited under the same act were undertaken by government agencies at two protected sites — Pucca Qila and the Sindh Assembly building — but the culture department had no idea that which government agency was involved in the illegal activity at either site.
While the work in Pucca Qila has reportedly been stopped, the illegal activity in the Sindh Assembly building continues.