Caretaker takes govt to court over Manghopir shrine closure

Crocodiles at the shrine are starving as devotees barred from entering and feeding them, claims petitioner

Naeem Sahoutara March 03, 2017
The custodian of the shrine at Manghopir has gone to court against alleged encroachment by a mafia. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued on Thursday notices to the provincial home secretary, Auqaf department and provincial chiefs of the Rangers and police to file their replies on a petition seeking to open the Manghopir shrine shut down in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Sehwan.

The Manghopir shrine is famous for its sulphur spring and pond next to the tomb of the saint which houses endangered and protected species of crocodiles.

Syed Shah Ghulam Mohiuddin Sharafi Firdausi, the caretaker and chairperson of the RA Committee Manghopir Shrine, had taken the provincial authorities to court for ordering the closure of the shrine and to seek direction for them to provide adequate security.

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Advocate Ghulam Haider Shaikh, who represented the petitioner, informed the judges that after the attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, the Manghopir shrine was locked.

"More than 300 crocodiles inside the pond have been starving for the last two weeks as the shrine is closed to the devotees who feed them," the lawyer told the two-judge bench headed by Justice Nadeem Akhtar.

The shrine's caretaker said he had written to the authorities concerned to open the shrine but to no avail. He recalled that all other shrines throughout the province were locked back in 2010 when the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi had come under attack and subsequently the authorities decided to erect boundary walls around them.

"However, no boundary wall was erected around the Manghopir shrine on the pretext of non-availability of funds," he alleged.

He said when the authorities were approached over the matter, they refused to open the shrine and provide security. The caretaker said it was only after the directives of the high court that the security agencies opened the shrine and security was provided.

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The judges were informed that despite court orders and the undertakings given by the Auqaf department in the court, the shrine was not being properly maintained.

The petitioner said the department's lack of interest could be gauged from the fact that K-Electric had disconnected power supply to the shrine over non-payment of dues but the authorities did not take steps to restore it.

Shaikh said that there was still a serious threat from land grabbers and miscreants who were eying the land of the shrine, which comprises the tomb of the saint, the adjoining mosque, crocodile pond and graveyard.

A large piece of the shrine's land had already been encroached upon by the residents of the neighborhood who have built their houses on it, he added.

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He said every month the charity boxes fixed on the premises of the shrine are opened and a large amount is collected by the authorities, adding there was no accountability or proper oversight on funds utilisation, thus the shrine was left with only the financial support of the devotees.

"Despite regular collection of money, barely anything is spent on the maintenance of shrine. Instead of maintaining it, the authorities closed the shrine and adjoining mosque and madrassa, declaring it unsafe for visiting. However, a charity organisation maintained the shrine and other adjoining properties on its own," the caretaker said.

Therefore, he pleaded the court direct the authorities to open the shrine. He also sought a direction for the police and Rangers high-ups to provide adequate security at the shrine.

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