Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the Karachi administration to stop the demolition of a Hindu dharamshala and leasing out the heritage property located in the heart of the city.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed issued the order on Friday while hearing a case regarding the implementation of a 2014 judgment on minorities’ rights.
During the hearing, Dr Ramesh Kumar a co-opted member of a one-man commission on minorities stated that the property at Saddar Town-I in Karachi measuring about 716 square yards was a dharamshala, The Express Tribune reported on Sunday.
Kumar also placed before the court photographs of the building. He said the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) leased out the property to some private person, who was demolishing the dharamshala to construct a commercial plaza.
Kumar said the ETPB chairman contended that the Sindh High Court (SHC) has allowed the ETPB to lease the place out, have it demolished and raise a new building there.
The Supreme Court bench, however, said such an order of the SHC was not before it.
“The very photograph apparently shows that the building is of dharamshala constructed in the year 1932, which can be read from the marble slab affixed on the building and must be a protected heritage building, the apex court said.
The court issued notice to Sindh’s secretary of heritage, asking him to file a report regarding the building.
In the meantime, no demolition activity of the said building shall be conducted by anyone, and possession of the building and the land shall be taken over by the Commissioner Karachi, who shall manage the same and not allow any person to enter it.
“No demolished material shall be allowed to be removed. This [should] be done by the Commissioner Karachi today and [a] report, in this respect, be submitted to the Office of the Supreme Court,” the report quoted the court’s order.
The order noted that the one-man commission has also filed an application with the request that it may be allocated more funds as earlier funds of Rs 7 million (70 lakh) allocated to it have already been spent and some liabilities have also accrued.
The apex issued a notice to the Ministry of Religious Affair and the Attorney General for Pakistan on this application, the report said.
“In the meanwhile, the amount of Rs.14.994 million be disbursed to the commission. For allocation of a new budget, let a proper response be filed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.
[The] one-man commission shall ensure to maintain proper accounts for the money disbursed to it and spent by it for the purpose of implementation of the commission,” said the order.
The ETPB is a key government department that administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after the partition.