KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 19th December, directed the Sindh government to move the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) from the premises of the Hindu Gymkhana, a heritage building in Karachi.
Hearing the case at the apex court’s Karachi registry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed expressed his displeasure over the provincial government’s inability to explain why the NAPA offices had not yet been shifted from the heritage site to another location.
Responding to the court’s query, the additional advocate-general Sindh said the Sindh government did not have any land to utilise for its own offices. Irked by the reply, Justice Gulzar Ahmed said NAPA should be shifted to the premises of the Sindh Chief Minister House if needed, but a heritage site cannot continue to be utilised in this manner.
The court asked the additional advocate general what the Sindh government was doing to shift NAPA from the Hindu Gymkhana premises.
The government will start constructing commercial plazas everywhere if things continue this way, remarked Justice Gulzar Ahmed. He reiterated that the provincial administration government would have to vacate the premises and shift NAPA to a different location.
The Hindu community in Karachi has long been fighting a legal battle to have the heritage building restored and returned to them so that it can be utilised for cultural activities and religious festivals. The Sindh Provincial Culture and Tourism Department first issued a notification in 2008 to the NAPA management to vacate the Hindu Gymkhana, within whose premises NAPA is located. But the case has now dragged in the courts for almost a decade.
Since independence of Pakistan in 1947, the Hindu community of Karachi had been struggling to acquire possession of this site, which was known to host the elite of the community since 1921. After partition the property was handed over to the Evacuee Trust Property Board. NAPA was later built at the location under an agreement signed with the Sindh Culture Department restricting the administration from construction or alteration of the heritage site—as per the provisions of the Sindh Heritage Act.