‘Illegal construction’ under way at Jinnah Courts

Published May 24, 2015
Labourers affixing prefabricated concrete windows to an under-construction structure on the premises of the historical building of Jinnah Courts, the temporary headquarters of Pakistan Rangers.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Labourers affixing prefabricated concrete windows to an under-construction structure on the premises of the historical building of Jinnah Courts, the temporary headquarters of Pakistan Rangers.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Another building is being constructed illegally on the premises of Jinnah Courts, as the temporary headquarters of the Pakistan Rangers has become a place where violation of heritage law doesn’t attract any punishment, it emerged on Saturday.

Built between June 1932 and June 1933, the Jinnah Courts is protected under the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act of 1994 that says nobody including the owner of a protected site can carry out any construction, repairs and rehabilitation activities there without mandatory permission. It prescribes long prison terms and heavy fines for violators.

A structure has appeared above the barricaded boundary walls of the headquarters on Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road.

The building is being constructed between the mosque and the main entrance to the Jinnah Courts. Sources said if anybody wanted to carry out any repairs or construction at the protected site they had to apply to the Sindh culture department that referred the matter to an advisory committee on cultural affairs.

Headed by the chief secretary, the committee then sent the application / proposal to its technical committee which would subsequently call the applicant to explain the proposal while it would give its recommendations to the advisory body, the sources explained.

They said it was the advisory committee that finally decided about granting permission which was then communicated to the applicant through the culture department.

Read: Rangers told to stop work on Jinnah Courts siteRangers told to stop work on Jinnah Courts site

The Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, had not applied for the permission to begin construction at the protected site, the sources said, adding that the question of grant of such permission therefore did not arise.

Asked about the development, Arif Hasan, an advisory committee member, confirmed to Dawn that the Rangers had not sought any permission for the construction or for a no-objection certificate. Hence, no permission/ NOC had been issued to the Rangers by the advisory committee, he added.

When the same question was put to Sindh Culture Secretary Dr Niaz Abbasi, he replied that he could not say anything off hand as he needed to check the relevant record first. He promised to respond to the query but he never did despite repeated attempts by Dawn to approach him.

The sources said this was not the first time the Rangers had started illegal construction at the protected site without the mandatory permission of the advisory committee. The paramilitary force had done this quite a few times earlier also. A multi-storey complex had been built earlier on the Jinnah Courts premises to house the troops. Another building was later constructed in the protected premises without the mandatory permissions.

However, the culture department did not initiate any punitive action against the law-enforcement agency despite repeated violation of the heritage law.

Originally named as the Leslie Wilson Muslim Hostel, the Jinnah Courts had been constructed with donations from the people as well as local bodies of the province to provide residential facilities to the students who came from across Sindh to pursue their studies in Karachi.

Its foundation stone was laid in June 1932 and the building constructed at a cost of Rs189,00 was inaugurated a year later in June 1933. The hostel remained a place of high importance during the Pakistan Movement and Father of the Nation Quaid-i-Azam Moham­mad Ali Jinnah also visited the hostel. Soon after independence, the building was named after Mr Jinnah, according to the sources.

They said the Rangers had shifted their headquarters to the Jinnah Courts on a temporary basis in April 1999. Earlier the Rangers headquarters was housed in Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre on University Road, but they had to vacate it when the United Arab Emirates government, which had funded the construction of the SZIC, raised the objections to its use by the law enforcement agency and said that the SZIC was meant for educational purposes and not for stationing of the paramilitary troops.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2015

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