KARACHI: Given its cosmopolitan nature, Karachi has traditionally been known for being much better towards its many minority communities compared to other parts of Pakistan. But an alarming case that surfaced on Wednesday suggests a seed of intolerance may be taking root in the city.
It all began with a notice pasted in the reception area of a residential building in the upscale locality of Clifton, Karachi. “Selling or renting any apartment in this building to non-Muslims is prohibited,” read the flyer displayed on the Machiyara Residency in Block 8, Clifton.
Photographs of the notice soon vent viral on social media, prompting furor from civil society activists and citizens from all walks of live. Anthropologist and rights activist Sikandar Ali Hullio, who tweeted the development, termed it an example of the “sick mindset that never treats all citizens equal.”
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Other voices soon joined in, condemning those behind the move for promoting fanaticism and the religious persecution of minorities.
Lawmakers take notice
Their uproar, in fact, was loud enough to catch the attention of the Sindh Assembly Secretariat. Minority MPA Nand Kumar Goklani, who belongs to the Grand Democratic Alliance, moved both a resolution and call attention notice against it.
“We have lived here for centuries. How can one issue a notice depriving us of our basic rights?” he questioned as he called upon the Sindh government and concerned authorities to take notice of the incident and take action against the builder. “I will raise this issue in the session on Friday,” he vowed.
The Express Tribune tried reaching out to the builder of the Machiyara Residency, but could not get their version on the development. However, the spokesperson of the Association of Builders and Developers of Pakistan (ABAD) told The Express Tribune that the builder no longer has anything to do with the building in question.
“The builder has handed over the building to allottees. The notices might have been displayed by the residential union of Machiyara Residency or a particular person,” said the spokesperson, adding that builders encourage the adherents of all sects and religions to purchase their properties.
Notice taken down
Later in the evening, when The Express Tribune visited the location in question, the notice had vanished. “The building union leaders placed the notice after telling us that only Muslims will be allowed to live here,” the watchman of the building said. “They placed the notice in front of the main entrance and at the reception. Then they suddenly removed them tonight [Wednesday].”
The building union representatives themselves were unwilling to comment on the issue. According to the watchman, the building houses members of the Memon community.
When contacted, Sindh Minority Affairs Minister Hari Ram Kishori Lal said they had received complaints regarding the incident and would consult with the Sindh Building Control Authority before taking action against the individuals “attempting to create disharmony in the name of religion.”
Former Sindh advocate-general, Barrister Zamir Ghumro, meanwhile, termed it an ‘illegal and unethical act’. “Article 23 of the Constitution clearly says that every citizen shall have the right to acquire, hold and dispose of the property in any part of Pakistan,” he said. “It states that all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of law.”
Ghumro also quoted Article 26 which deals with non-discrimination with respect to access to public places on grounds of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth.
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Dr Mufti Emadul Haq, who holds a PhD in humanities, joined Ghumro and other activists in condemning the incident. “Every citizen who was born in Pakistan has equal rights and no one can deprive them of purchasing any property,” he said. “Islam is the religion of tolerance, peace and love. Non-Muslims like us have full autonomy and freedom of religion. They are citizens who pay taxes and can sell and purchase whatever they want wherever they want,” he added. “We should condemn and discourage those fanatics who commit discrimination against minorities after interpreting Islam in their own way.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2019.