KARACHI: Already under the radar of anti-graft watchdogs and criticism of rival parties over recent ‘desk scandal’, the provincial government on Tuesday faced another question raised on its actions when legislators of the opposition benches claimed that the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government administration was carrying out “illegal and commercial construction activity” inside the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum posing a serious threat to the national heritage site.
The claim came from Leader of the Opposition in Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh, who along with members of the provincial assembly (MPAs) of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and journalists paid a ‘surprise’ visit to the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum also known as Flagstaff House.
He showed to media different areas of the heritage building which were being used for “commercial purposes” with alleged permission of the Sindh government.
He also showed copies of documents which were signed as a memorandum of understanding by the Sindh government in agreement with the Jinnah Society and the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations in February 2021 which allowed the two non-governmental bodies to use the heritage facility for their operation calling it “first step towards commercialisation of the Quaid’s historic residence”.
Opposition leader asks who has given permission for changes to be made to the heritage site
According to these documents, the Sindh government has entered into an agreement with the two organisations to transform Quaid-i-Azam House into “nation-building institute” and establish a management board with the chief minister Sindh as its ex-officio chairman, said Mr Sheikh while showing copies of the documents.
“This board was notified in April 2021. As per agreement, a public library named Jinnah Library has to be established here but instead of setting up the library the existing library has been turned into an office of the board. It doesn’t end here. A soil testing machine has also been brought here at the site for excavation to carry out boring on the premises of the protected heritage. Who has given this permission? Such activities would lead to serious damages to the site of historical importance.”
He said that opposition legislators were receiving complaints through different sources and their visit proved that the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum was being used for multiple purposes for quite some time while keeping things “hidden” from quarters concerned of society.
“It’s a conspiracy of usurping the invaluable land. The library of the museum has been turned into an office while a soil testing machine is also present on the premises of the house. What’s going on here?” he questioned and claimed it was all in preparation of “something big”.
“The PPP government has already devastated Moenjodaro, Makli, Bhambhore and other cultural and archaeological sites. Now they are eyeing the national heritage site. But the PTI will protect the national heritage and will not let the mafias fulfil their nefarious designs.”
Meanwhile, claims mentioned in a statement issued by the leader of the opposition’s office cast further doubts over the events.
The statement quoted retired Commodore Sadeed Anwer Malik of Karachi Council on Foreign Relations sharing further plan under the signed agreement.
“Commodore (r) Sadeed Anwer Malik informed [Leader of the Opposition] that Nation Building Institute is working with objectives of setting up an audio-visual centre which will display documentaries and films on Quaid-i-Azam and other heroes of freedom movement,” said the statement.
“Though Mr. Malik insisted that no alteration would be made in the premises, he also informed that an underground parking would [be] constructed on the premises without disturbing the existing structure.”
Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021