The Pakistan Supreme Court has rejected a request by the country’s Auditor General to reverse a December 28 decision by the apex court ordering the provincial Sindh government to demolish the Madina Masjid on Tariq Road in the city of Karachi. The court ruled that the Masjid had been built on land which was to be used for the building of a park, and only provided a temporary respite, allowing the masjid to operate until other land has been allocated to it. The Masjid’s committee had argued that the 1100 square feet Masjid had been constructed legally, and that it had been paying its utility bills regularly for the past 30 years. Further, the proposal that retrospective recognition be granted pursuant to the payment of any fines was also rejected by the court.
There have been widespread protests following the decision, with the public and the religious community arguing that the Masjid cannot be demolished, and that Pakistan, as an Islamic state, needed to allocate land for Masjid construction, and that this was not only supposed to be a result of private endeavours.
Speaking to Radio Islam International, Zia-ul-Rahman, a journalist and researcher, and Nimat Khan, a Karachi based journalist and former joint secretary of the Karachi Press club, both reiterated the widespread opposition to the ordered demolishment. Further, they argued that this opposition had transcended ideological and class lines, noting that the construction of places of worship could also be argued to be a community demand, comparable to the construction of parks, especially since the Masjid served most of the community. Rahman also argued that corruption in previous administrations was a major factor influencing such issues, as government officials often sought to make money from land allocations.
Last, both argued that it is unlikely that the order will be complied with, with both noting that it is a provincial issue, which the Khan government has preferred to remain silent on, for fear of losing appeal.