KARACHI: A few kilometres away from where the outgoing president lives lies the humble abode of his successor Mamnoon Hussain.
The house, spread over nearly 400 yards on the edge of Badar Commercial in DHA Phase V, is free from barbed wires, iron grilles and container blockades at the moment but residents fear this may not be the case once he takes over the president’s office in September.
Considering the way Bilawal House has become a giant fortress, with all roads leading to it blocked with containers and a massive wall erected right on the middle of the main road, the nearby shopkeepers have reason to worry.
Ghulam Rasool who sells poultry at the corner of the street hopes to retain his business. “We are happy that a person from our neighborhood has become the president,” he said. “But we also wish that our celebration does not turn into sadness if our shops are forced to close down.” Hussain’s house overlooks an empty plot, a few residential buildings and offices that have shops selling poultry, vegetable and furniture at the bottom.
Since his victory at the presidential elections, the neighbourhood has already witnessed a significant change. Around 30 police officers and commandoes guard Hussain’s house all the time. Though the street is still open for traffic, commuters have to zigzag through two barriers and pass through the eagle eyes of officers.
At a nearby shop, tailor Abdul Rauf looks up from the blue dress he is stitching to say that his clients have started complaining about presence of police officers. “They think that a huge wall will be set up and the area would be shut for outsiders.” Rauf’s shop is older than Hussain’s house, he pointed out, adding that he cannot afford to lose work as he is the sole earner of five kids.
Shopkeepers inside a new furniture shop are worried that they would lose their customers even before starting their work. “My cousin used to work at a hotel near Bilawal House and he was forced to quit when the owner could not afford to pay his salary,” said one seller who did not want to be named.
Though neighbours are concerned about the upcoming changes in their areas, they consider Hussain as a simple and humble man who walks to his barber without guards. “He greets us whenever he sees us and asks how we are doing.” smiled Muhammad Ashaq, a vegetable seller as he gazed over at Hussain’s house. “He won’t become arrogant and proud like the other presidents.”
The president’s next-door neighbours were reluctant to share their views about what the future for the neighbourhood holds, but Farazana - who lives in one of the buildings - said that the beefed up security is good for the area. “We have protection now from street crimes and mugging,” she said. “More police deployment will benefit us.”
The location of the house does, however, make it hard for the police to ensure foolproof security like they did for the outgoing president. A security branch officer sitting outside the house said this area is difficult to manage.
“We won’t shut down shops as it will result in a dispute,” he said. “For the time being, we will install security cameras and start checking at the posts.” Nevertheless, he insisted they will provide the president with the security he deserves and will take all measures.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2013.