KARACHI, Dec 25: The Sindh Rangers have moved into the Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai Library in Old Golimar that was recently renovated by the Sindh government some six years after it was burned down during riots.
The library’s renovation some three months ago meant a lot for the students of Old Golimar. Not only did it serve the people of that area, it also catered to students coming from Pak Colony, Jahanabad, Garden East and Garden West.
First opened on Feb 14, 1977, by the then Sindh Chief Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, the library housed around 4,500 books with several old manuscripts of the Holy Quran. In addition, it had a collection of toys for children which they called Khilona Library. Other than the library, this place housed the Site Town Nadra office, a bank branch and utility store.
But on Aug 26, 2006, this significant place of learning fell victim to loot and plunder in the form of anti-government protests following the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti along with all the other places within a half kilometre of the Pak Colony police station. The protests continued for over two hours during which the library was set ablaze. Books not burnt to ashes were taken away.
Then on the insistence of the people of Site Town, Sindh Minister for Katchi Abadis Nadeem Ahmed Bhutto wrote to Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah for the restoration of the library with the Nadra office, bank and utility store on the premises.
Now after renovation work has been carried out on the building, there is a barrier restricting the public from entering the building as the premises has been taken over by the Sindh Rangers.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s ex-MPA Fareeda Baloch is one of the people affected by the unfortunate incident spelling disaster for the library in 2006 when hooligans pushed out her car from the library parking lot and torched it.
“What to say of my car,” she said speaking to Dawn on Tuesday. “I was just shocked at the stupidity of the people taking part in the vandalism. Many of them were residents of Old Golimar, joining in the rioting. In the process they only hurt themselves by losing such a good library,” she said.
“Yelling slogans of Jeay Baloch, they burned down everything they could lay their hands on — tables, chairs, children’s toys and the biggest treasure of all, the books,” she added.
“There is as it is a dearth of education here. In such circumstances the library was a very important fixture especially for those who wanted to study and make something of themselves here. By burning it down, they have only hurt their children’s future.
“Earlier, they said that the building was damaged beyond repair and it will have to be demolished but then it was renovated but what use is that as it has been taken over by the Rangers? It is a library. I ask what business do the Rangers have there?” she said.
“There are mighty influential people with links to the government living in the area even now, but no one seems to care or question what has become of the Bhitai library.”
Later, the Pakistan People’s Party PS-92 General Secretary Ghulam Rasool Raikani explained how the Rangers got possession of the library in the first place. “It was around when the renovation work was under way that they would park their vehicle right outside saying that it was a designated spot for ensuring security. As time passed, they started sitting inside as the gates would be ajar while the work was going on. Then one day their DSR held a meeting with us seeking the premises for their use. We explained to them that the place was reserved for a library,” he said.
“But around three months back, they just barged in and even broke all the padlocks inside to take over the rooms as well. They are men in uniform, what they say now is that their presence is needed in the area. But people are still getting killed here despite their being around,” Mr Raikani added.
When contacted, Sindh’s Minister for Katchi Abadis Nadeem Ahmed Bhutto told Dawn that under the prevalent law and order situation in Old Golimar, the Rangers could not be evicted from the place.
“It’s our bad luck that the library is not being used as such. But the presence of Rangers is also needed in this rather sensitive area as we can’t allow the gangs to freely roam about there,” he said.
“Therefore, I have approached the interior minister and the CM, reminding them that they had invested government money in the library, and to help us look for a long-term solution to this problem.”
Meanwhile, when Dawn called the Sindh Rangers to know who had endorsed their moving into the Bhitai Library and if they were there on a permanent or temporary basis, their spokesman said he was not sure what locality and which library we were talking about, but he would forward the questions to higher authorities.