The recent collapse of the dome of a mosque which was under construction in Manawan isn’t the first such incident the city has seen. But the authorities didn’t seem to have been more vigilant this time around
On February 11, the dome of Jamia Sirat-ul-Mustaqeem, a mosque under construction in Al-Hafeez Garden Housing Society, Manawan, caved in, killing at least three people and causing injuries to several others. While the cause of the collapse is being investigated, media reported that at least 25 labourers were working at the site when the unfortunate incident happened.
Chief Minister Usman Buzdar immediately sought an inquiry into the incident. By the time of writing this article the concerned departments, including the police, had not been able to submit a detailed report.
Ironically, this is not the first incident of its kind the city has seen. In 2014, at least 20 people lost their lives and seven others were injured when the structure of a two-storey mosque-cum-seminary collapsed in Daroghawala, a vicinity of Manawan. Conflicting statements from different quarters complicated matters pertaining to the cause of the incident. All of which makes it even more important that the authorities be more vigilant.
Chances of sabotage can never be ruled out. But the police as well as other concerned government departments tend to close files on such incidents, calling them “accidents.” The question arises as to what kind of safety measures are taken in construction of structures such as mosques that are to be community spaces. Do the inspectors shun exercise of their authority when dealing with mosque administrations? Who is responsible for ensuring that the building bylaws are being diligently followed? Have the police or another government department ever conducted a thorough investigation into such incidents?
“When [the LDA] approves a building plan [for construction], it is mandated that the building bylaws are followed. The focal person here is the structural engineer. No building is approved for construction without a certificate from him. Hence, in the event of a failure, he is held accountable.” — Sheikh Imran, Vice Chairman, LDA.
Talking to TNS, LDA vice chairman Sheikh Imran, says: “To my knowledge, a certain area in Manawan does not fall under the LDA jurisdiction.
“When [the LDA] approves a building plan [for construction], it is mandated that the building laws are followed. The focal person here is the structural engineer. No building is approved for construction without a certificate from him. Hence, in the event of a failure, he is the one held accountable.”
According to Afzal Rao, a resident of Manawan, substandard building material and a disregard of guidelines for structural safety led to the mosque incident. “I, along with some locals, rushed to the spot when we heard about [the incident]. Several labourers were lying under the debris. They were crying for help. We tried our best to rescue them but failed because the structure was so huge.”
Cantt Division SP (Operations) Syed Aziz says that an FIR was registered under Section 322 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and investigations were in progress. He ruled out the possibility of a subversive activity, but wasn’t loath to admitting that substandard building material may have been used in construction.
Manawan DSP Zakariya Younas said the mosque was being built by Sheikh Shafique, a philanthropist based in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) “without an approved plan” on a plot measuring around 2 kanals.
“It’s been under construction for two years,” he adds. “As per a labourer who was working on the site, a heavy steel structure was erected on the roof and filled with mass concrete, without adequate foundations to support it. The roof could not bear the load of the dome and caved in.”
The police have registered an FIR on the complaint of Shaukat Ali, the brother of one of the deceased. Sheikh Shafique, the accused, is out on bail till February 24.
The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at [email protected]