Tensions run high on Tariq Road

January 23, 2022

The construction of a mosque on land allocated for a park has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

Tensions run high on Tariq Road

A bunch of people stand reading the banner displayed on the wall of Madina Masjid, which was allegedly constructed on an amenity plot near Tariq Road, the busiest business street in Karachi. The banner has been displayed in protest against a verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan that ordered the demolition of said mosque. The banner reads: “No order against Shariah will be acceped.”

On December 28, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ordered the demolition of Madina Mosque as it was constructed on land allotted for a public park. “No law exists to convert the public amenity plot into any kind of religious place, residential or commercial,” the court verdict stated. The apex court has ordered the restoration of the public park and cancelled all the No Objection Certificates (NOCs) and other documents issued in favour of construction of the mosque.

A larger bench of the Supreme court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, had earlier passed several orders against illegal constructions in Karachi, which were consequently demolished by the local authorities. A prominent one among those was the Nasla Towers, a multi-story commercial-cum-residential plaza that is being demolished as a portion of the high-rise encroached on a footpath.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), some other religious parties of the Deobandi school and hundreds of people belonging to various segments of society held a demonstration and chanted slogans against the Supreme Court’s verdict to demolish the Madina Mosque.

The religious leaders warned that they will resist any attempt to demolish the Madina Masjid. Jamia Binoria Al-Aalmia, a Deobandi seminary in Karachi, has also expressed solidarity and support for Madina Masjid and stands against the court’s order. A large number of people from Sindh, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Kashmir, the Punjab and the KPK visit Madina Masjid on a daily basis in solidarity with the mosque’s management. Hindu and Christian delegations have also visited the mosque and shown their support and solidarity with the Muslims in protection of Madina Masjid.

According to the management, the Madina Masjid Trust had laid the foundation stone of the mosque in 1980 with the permission of Pakistan Employees’ Cooperative Housing Society (PECHS).

Hafiz, Abdul Rehman Shahjahan, the Madina Masjid Trust chairman, tells The News on Sunday that they have submitted a statement in the Supreme Court about the legal status of the construction. “The mosque is a house consecrated for Allah; it should not be demolished,” he says.

Dr Saeed Iskandar, general secretary of Jamia Binoria Trust Association states, “We allowed affiliation of the mosques after the completion of required documents and registration to avoid being associated with an unregistered mosque.”

“Jamia Binoria issued an affiliation certificate to Madina Masjid after all documents were completed and the mosque was registered,” he said. He says they are used to resolving disputes involving mosques that have an affiliation with Jamia Binoria Trust. “Jamia Binoria Trust conducts financial audits of all its affiliated mosques,” Dr Saeed says.

“Not a single person, a local shopkeeper or a resident of the PECHS has ever complained against the construction of Madina Masjid,” he says. He says had any of the local residents or people living nearby had ever complained about its construction, they would have refused to register it at that time.

The religious leaders warned that they would resist any attempt to demolish the Madina Masjid. Jamia Binoria Al-Aalmia, a Deobandi religious seminary in Karachi has also expressed solidarity and support for Madina Masjid and stands against the court order.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed, the chief justice of Pakistan, observed during a hearing in Karachi that the plot bearing No. AP-30 on Main Tariq Road, with an area of 1,095 square yards in the layout plan of PECHS had been marked as a park. It seems that the entire land allocated for the park has been occupied by the Madina Masjid except for a corner showing perhaps a sub-station of K-electric. He said the District Municipal Corporation (DMC) East representative, present for the proceedings, had verified that the mosque was constructed on park land. He ordered the municipal administration to ensure that the land was restored to the park and all illegal construction raised on it was removed.

The apex court ordered the DMC East administrator to submit a compliance report to the Supreme Court within a week.

The Supreme Court later rejected the application submitted by Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan to review the court decision about the mosque demolition.

The Supreme Court held that if the court started withdrawing its decisions, then there would be no point in pursuing an operation against encroachments and illegal construction.

After the Supreme Court judgment came out, the Masjid Trust asked for and received a fatwa (edict) in support of the mosque from Jamia Binoria and five other well known Deobandi organisations. The fatwa noted that the mosque was constructed legally and has now become a shariah-protected mosque that cannot be demolished.

“Unfortunately, in this Islamic country mosques are being demolished on orders by Supreme Court,” says Qari Usman, the JUI-F Karachi chapter chief. “Private properties have been regularised but a mosque, which was legally constructed, is being demolished on the Supreme Court’s order,” he says.

“Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam is ready to protect the mosque and willing fight to court battle,” he says.

“All religious parties and factions have now united at one platform and are ready to protect the mosque,” he says, adding that it is not easy to demolish a mosque in a Muslim majority country. He says the Supreme court should review its decision. “We will sacrifice our lives to protect the Madina Masjid and will not allow the Supreme Court or anyone else to demolish it,” Qari Usman tells The News on Sunday.

According to Muhammad Toheed, an urban planner at Karachi Urban Lab, the status of an amenity plot allocated for a park cannot be changed in the town planning domain.“ As per the constitution, the park should be restored,” he says.

Toheed says a change in the status f the land requires an amendment in the constitution. “Pakistan does not have any enshrined Islamic law. We are following British law with some amendments,” he says.

He worries that the Supreme Court order to restore Dilkusha Park has become a sensitive issue. “If someone constructs a park on a plot meant for a mosque, how will people react then?” he asks.

Gul Hasan Khan, 60, says that the Supreme Court is specifically targetting the Deobandi faction in issuing the order for demolition of Madina Masjid. “We are peaceful people and believe in peaceful methods but we will not back down from our stance,” he says.

“The Supreme Court must review its decision regarding the Madina Masjid issue,” he says. He says the people are ready to protect the place and will resist any attempt to demolish it. “If the Supreme Court does not withdraw its decision, it will only fuel sectarian violence in the country, and hatred for the judiciary,” Hasan says.

Lawyer Jibran Nasir says the Supreme Court judgment can be reviewed. He also says that there is a common perception that Supreme Court decisions discriminate against the poor.

“No action was taken against the illegal properties in Bani Gala and Hyatt Residency but thousands of houses were demolished in Gharibabad for the restoration of the KCR project,” he says. He says courts always favour the poor in the rest of the world. “The Supreme Court legalised the 16,500 acres of illegal land for Bahria Town but ordered demolition of Nasla Tower for encroachment on a footpath,” he says.

He says that the wealthy are living comfortably while the poor continue to face challenges in the name of anti-encroachment operations.”The courts are losing their credibility in the public’s eyes through controversial verdicts,” he says.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi. He can be reached on Twitter @Zafar_Khan5

Tensions run high on Tariq Road