SC initiates suo motu action on threat to Larkana heritage building

Published February 15, 2015
The image shows the building of Supreme Court of Pakistan. — AFP/file
The image shows the building of Supreme Court of Pakistan. — AFP/file

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Saturday took suo motu notice of the reported threat to a national heritage site in Sindh where a certain portion of a pre-partition club building has been lost to land grabbers.

Taking notice of a news item that appeared in a section of the press recently titled: “Larkana’s ladies club loses portion to land mafia”, Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk ordered the court office to register the matter as a human rights case that will be taken up later by a bench of the Supreme Court.

According to the media report the ladies club was a significant part of Larkana’s heritage and had hosted some famous guests in its time. The club was home to cultural activities organised by Hindus, Christians and Muslim women before partition.

The Gomibai Jawaharmal Ladies Club was built by a Hindu deputy collector, who named it after his sister. On Jan 3, 1934, the club was inaugurated by Mrs RE Gibson, the wife of a senior British bureaucrat. The report suggested that the club had around 107 members and ran without any financial support from the government.

Though the land is property of the district government, in 2004 the government decided to sell the club and the plot to a builder, but later abandoned the idea when members of the club formed a citizens’ action forum and launched a campaign against the government’s decision. Later, authorities succumbed to public pressure and withdrew the decision to handover the land to builders.

But the report stated that recently, two shops in the club had been occupied by the land mafia, which also had plans to grab the entire precious plot and the historical building.

Earlier in 2009, the Supreme Court under former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had taken notice of a number of encroachments of different kinds that had disfigured several archaeological heritage sites in different cities across the country.

As a result, the Punjab government had to admit the presence of encroachments inside the 16th century garrison Rohtas Fort.

Later, the provincial government told the court that encroachments from all the 124 historical monuments in Lahore had been removed.

Then, the Punjab Archaeology Department also prepared a voluminous report suggesting that 3,220 encroachments of different kinds had disfigured 124 historical monuments alone in Lahore despite the fact that these were protected under the Antiquity Act 1975 and the Punjab Special Premises (Perseveration) Ordinance 1985.

Like the historic Lahore Fort, which was threatened by 231 encroachments, 394 encroachments were built around the Tomb of Jahanghir, Akbari Sarai and Mosque and Asif Khan Tomb near Shahdara.

The southern side of the 16th century Badshahi Mosque was also not spared with 11 encroachments while there were 31 encroachments around Masjid Wazir Khan.

The Supreme Court had also ordered the authorities to pull down an “illegal” construction of a five storey plaza between Kashmiri Gate and the Sheranwala Gate in the protected walled city of old Lahore.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2015

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