Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has restricted its residents from hosting musical programmes and dance parties at home while allowing other events such as Quran Khwanis and dars gatherings.
Two months ago, DHA issued the new set of guidelines on its website and outside its main office listing permissible and prohibited activities.
Mehndis, nikkahs and birthday parties are allowed but musical and dance parties have been banned in what some residents see as DHA’s attempt to morally police its residents. “DHA has no legal authority to issue such a directive,” reacted Asad Kizalbash of the Association of Defence Residents. “Responding to a complaint from a neighbour about too much noise is something different. Issuing a firm directive like this means they are out to teach us morality. This is unacceptable.” The Association of Defence Residents is an umbrella group of half a dozen associations.
The largest one is Defence Society Residents Association with 3,000 members.
DHA vigilance staff has been directed to stop events held without permission.
In a meeting held with DHA Administrator Brig Aamer Raza a few weeks back, the association registered its protest. “Vigilance staff will be taking the law into their hands if they start peeking into our homes,” pointed out Kizalbash.
There are close to 50,000 tax-paying households in DHA and Cantonment Board Clifton which has its own bylaws on the use of property. Some residents suspect that DHA’s restrictions are an attempt to clamp down on people renting out houses for private events even though there are clear delineations on residential and commercial spaces.
According to resident Nasir Husain, a 1,000 sq yd house will fetch a maximum of Rs100,000 in rent. “Give it for any other purpose and you can earn Rs250,000 a month. Owners are naturally tempted to let all this happen.” He gave the example of a house off Khayaban-e-Rahat being used to record or ‘dharna’ or protest with 30 people. In his brief remarks, a DHA spokesman said residents have to seek permission before arranging any event. “This has been done to address complaints about noise pollution,” he said. DHA has thus restricted the use of loudspeakers to play music but has not said anything about religious congregations.
The DHA neighbourhoods are not close knit like others around Karachi. “When you know your neighbour, you get to learn about each other’s family background and the dislikes,” said one resident. “If loud music, drinking and dancing is an issue, you can simply talk things over. That doesn’t happen here.” The association for residents has realised this problem and is organising meetings to bring residents together.
This would help at least spread the message – which for now was only available on the website and at the DHA office. Residents Farea Khan and Amra Ghazanfar told The Express Tribune that they had no idea that there were restrictions. “Why would they do that?” added Farea.
As for one resident Mehek Ali, the news was met with skepticism: “I don’t see it lasting – no one is going to stick to the ban.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2012.