KARACHI, July 6: The Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA) has asked the rangers authorities to stop the ongoing ‘illegal construction’ on the Jinnah Courts premises — their headquarters, it is learnt.
The rangers authorities have been raising a medical facility for their personnel stationed at the headquarters, according to sources.
The sources pointed out that the Jinnah Courts was a site protected under the Sindh Cultural Heritage Protection Act and nobody, even the owner of such a site, could carry out any construction, repair, renovation etc. without obtaining a prior permission from the Advisory Committee on the Cultural Heritage, headed by the provincial chief secretary. The Act prescribes heavy fine and long prison terms for the violators.
They said that even in the case of construction on an ordinary property, its owner was required to submit building plan and get it approved by the KBCA before going ahead with the construction.
For any alteration or construction on a site protected under the Act, the occupants had to obtain a no-objection certificate/permission from the advisory committee first, and then apply to the KBCA for the purpose, they explained.
The KBCA notice dated July 4, 2003 issued to the Pakistan Rangers says that the inspection of the building (Jinnah Courts), declared a protected heritage, reveals that fresh construction at the rear side on the premises of troops accommodation building is being carried out without any approval from the KBCA as defined under Section 6 of the Sindh Building Control Ordinance 79/82. As such the construction is illegal and liable to be demolished. It is, therefore, advised to immediately stop the construction and approach KBCA for approval of the building plan. Moreover, it may be ensured that the plan must be forwarded from the Sindh Culture Department.
Responding to Dawn’s queries on Saturday, the Pakistan Rangers spokesman said that a small clinic, probably a ground-plus-one structure with a few rooms, to be used by the troops stationed at the headquarters, was being constructed. At present, the troops are facing hardships as they have to go to the Haji Camp dispensary, which is far away, he maintained.
He claimed that the rangers had apprised the interior ministry, as well as the interior minister, of the plan during his recent visit and obtained the required permissions.
Regarding the permissions from the KBCA and the advisory committee, he said, “I cannot tell you off hand about these permissions. I will find out and inform you in a day or two. However, we are law enforcement agency and cannot even think of breaking law. I can assure you that we must have obtained all the required permissions/NOCs before starting the construction.”
A spokesman for the provincial culture department, however, said that the rangers had not applied for the permission for any new construction in the Jinnah Courts. “So, the question of the advisory committee giving them any NOC simply doesn’t arise,” he said, adding that a few days back a private member of the committee had also informed the chief secretary about the new construction in the Jinnah Courts. The CS is the head of the committee. The department has asked the rangers authorities for their version/comments on the issue, he said.
The KBCA sources told Dawn that the rangers had neither submitted their building plan nor have they obtained any permission for the new construction. That is why the KBCA has issued the notice.
It may be recalled that a few years back, the rangers had started construction of a residential block for the troops without obtaining the required permissions. However, when they were served notices by the culture department and KBCA, the rangers submitted the building plans, which were approved after minor modifications and certain conditions and a four-storey building was constructed.
After that, the rangers completely redesigned and reconstructed the Jinnah Courts historic mosque where, before and soon after the creation of Pakistan, Allama I. I. Qazi used to deliver Friday sermons to the people residing in the Jinnah Courts, a hostel at that time.
Originally named as the Leslie Wilson Muslim Hostel, the Jinnah Courts had been built with funds contributed by people and local bodies of Sindh. Its foundation stone was laid in June 1932 and the building, constructed at a cost of Rs189,000, was inaugurated in June 1933.
The hostel, which belonged to the S. M. Law College, remained a place of high importance during the Pakistan Movement. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah also visited the hostel and soon after the independence, it was named after him.
Pakistan Rangers moved their headquarters to the Jinnah Courts on temporary basis in April 1999. Until then they had been using Shaikh Zayed Islamic Centre, University Road, as their headquarters. The UAE government, which had funded the construction of the Centre, had raised the objection that the Centre was meant for educational purposes and not for stationing para-military troops.