The Sindh Building Control Authority’s (SBCA) director general told The News on Tuesday that they are not demolishing Shafqat House, and that as part of their standard operating procedure, routine notices are issued to occupants warning them about the risks of living in dangerous buildings.
Regarding the SBCA’s operations, Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani said “heritage buildings cannot be demolished, but if they are declared dangerous by the Authority, they can be demolished and so the residents would be asked to evacuate”.
It was earlier believed that the SBCA had ordered evacuation of Shafqat House, which serves as a commercial as well as residential structure, because it was declared “dilapidated”.
Designated a cultural heritage site by the Sindh Culture, Tourism & Antiquities Department, the building is located in Artillery Maidan Quarters, next to the DJ College on Muhammad bin Qasim Road. It houses a bank besides several offices on the ground floor, and nearly 40 flats.
Under the law, a heritage site cannot be demolished unless the relevant department has issued a no-objection certificate, which the SBCA is believed to not have obtained. Constructed during the pre-independence period, the building was given to tenants on the Pagri (goodwill) system.
The locals claim that the building’s owner has been repeatedly and consistently damaging the structure since early 2000 in order to pressure the occupants into evacuation.
They said he removed the windows and doors and, in some cases, also damaged the floors to force the tenants out. The owner’s plan, they believe, is to create a technical justification for the heritage building to be razed.
Under the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act of 1994, a building that has been declared a heritage site cannot be demolished or altered for any other purpose.
Through several written communications in 2005, the then Culture, Tourism, Sports, Youth Affairs & Social Welfare Department had warned the owner from deliberately and unlawfully damaging the heritage structure and threatening the lives of those living and working there.
Even the Karachi Building Control Authority’s (KBCA) chief controller buildings was intimated about the deliberate damage to the heritage site. A KBCA team verified the illegal action of the owner back in 2006 and asked the Saddar town police officer to lodge an FIR against him.
The police, however, took no action back then. And the issue has now cropped up again as the SBCA was believed to have ordered the residents’ eviction.
SBCA DG Iftikhar Qaimkhani told The News that the drive against illegal constructions is still under way. He said that on Tuesday illegal units and shops were demolished on plots 1149-50 in Block-20 of Federal B Area.
He said three illegal floors were demolished on plots 92-93 in Block-20 of Saddar Town, adding that the illegal housing scheme Dream City near Wireless Gate in Shah Faisal Town was also demolished and the project sealed because it was raised without approval of its layout plan.
Qaimkhani said the Authority has launched a massive campaign against illegal buildings. Responding to a question, he said lists of illegal constructions in all towns are being prepared and they would be soon released to the media. He said the LG minister is monitoring the situation of illegal constructions across the city.