OKARA: The 70-year-old Jamia Usmania Mosque Complex situated in the centre of the city is in a dilapidated condition as it has been declared dangerous by multiple departments.

The mosque was declared dangerous by the National Engineering Services Pakistan, buildings department and the engineering branch of the Okara Municipal Corporation in 2014-15 but in the last 10 years, the Auqaf Department, the administrator of the mosque complex, could not carry out its renovation, mainly due to non-cooperation of tenants of mosque’s 120 shops and 42 residents and private office persons.

Tenants fear that once they are evicted, they may not be able to get possession of the property again.

The public departments after the structural stability study reported that ‘the concrete portion of the slab along with part of brick covering the steel is now lost, henceforth causing serious damage to the steel reinforcement. The exposed steel of slabs has been completely rusted, so it has to be reconstructed at the earliest being in a dangerous state’.

The mosque was completed in 1952 and later in 1969 was taken over by the Punjab Auqaf Department and since then the Auqaf Department’s main job is to collect rent amount from traders and residents of the complex.

The Auqaf Department is also only vigilant in rent collection. The rent is multiple times low from the market rates.

The walls of the two of the three stories are plagued with choking sewerage and seepage.

In 2017, tenant Muhammad Hanif Pakistani filed an application with the Punjab Mohtasib seeking rehabilitation orders for the mosque.

The authority directed the local in charge of the district office of the ombudsman to pursue the case. After examination of the record and site inspection, the Auqaf Department was told to get the shops and residences vacated and Rs100 million were allocated for renovation. The plan never saw the light of day.

Now, social workers Hafiz Masood Ahmad, Shahbaz Sajid and Dr Sabir Shaheen have taken up the case of the mosque with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Aquaf Minister Syed Saeedul Hasan Shah.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2021

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