The historical graveyard on the outskirts of Karachi may turn into a shopping mall if authorities failed to put an end to encroachment, warned a petitioner.
In a petition filed to Sindh High Court, Agha Syed Attallah Shah - an NGO representative - informed the court that the precious stones and carvings on the graves are being removed and authorised constructions are taking place.
Chowkandi graveyard, located on National Highway, is one of the country’s valuable national heritage site spread over nearly 57 acres. It was a family graveyard of Jokhio and Baloch tribes living in the area from the 15th to 18th centuries, the petitioner said.
According to Shah, some influential men were stealing the carved precious stones from the graveyard to decorate their houses and guestrooms. Also, the land of the last resting place of famous tribal personalities is being illegally occupied by influential people, who want to construct hotels, houses and offices of truck stands there, he claimed.
The petitioner complained that the provincial chief secretary and the culture secretary - who are legally bound under the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act, 1994, and the National Fund for Cultural Heritage Ordinance, 1994, to preserve and maintain the national heritage - are failing to act against those responsible for losses to the heritage. “The graveyard is in a dilapidated condition,” said Shah, pleading the court direct the authorities take action against the encroachments and ensure proper maintenance of the graveyard.
In May, the SHC had directed the heritage and cultural secretary to ensure that no illegal construction is carried out at the site and that no one is allowed to vandalise the heritage site but the court was told on Friday that the authorities had failed to protect the site, where encroachment had escalated.
During Friday’s hearing, SHC chief justice Mushir Alam ordered the provincial culture and heritage ministry and the Malir Development Authority to file a report on the removal of unauthorised constructions at the historic graveyard by September 12.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2013.