Lahore, April 6 (Express Tribune): Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan has criticized the Indian lawmaker’s call to demolish the historic Jinnah House in Mumbai and build a cultural centre in its place.
“Indian parliamentarian’s call to demolish Jinnah House unfortunate and disturbing. History cannot be wished away by demolishing buildings,” he tweeted on Thursday.
Famed for its Italian marble and walnut-wood panelling, Jinnah House has been controlled by the Indian government since Quaid-e-Azam moved to Karachi in 1947.
Last week, BJP MP Mangal Prabhat Lodha urged the Indian government to declare Jinnah House “enemy property”, and hand over the building to the Maharashtra state.
“The Jinnah residence was the place from where the conspiracy of Partition was hatched. Jinnah House is a symbol of the Partition. The structure should be demolished,” Lodha had said.
Imran echoed the government’s view that India should “respect the ownership rights of the government of Pakistan” on the disputed property.
Reacting to the ‘absurd’ demand, the Foreign Office spokesperson said the historic building should be handed over to Pakistan.
“Pakistan has repeatedly expressed its desire to take possession of the property… We also expect that the Indian government will fulfil its obligation of protecting that property and its upkeep,” Nafees Zakaria said.
Jinnah’s daughter Dina Wadia, who remained in India, is engaged in a separate legal battle with the Indian government over the property. The stately building was labelled “evacuee property” in 1949, in accordance with the law that allowed the Indian government to take over properties of those who migrated to Pakistan after Partition. The Act has since been repealed.
The Enemy Property Act of 1968, enacted after India and Pakistan fought their second war over Kashmir in 1965, gave the Indian government the right to seize assets of Indian nationals who had moved to Pakistan or China following conflicts with the two countries. Pakistan enacted a similar law at the time.
But controversial amendments last month to the Enemy Property Act, denies Indian families of those who moved to China and Pakistan the right to reclaim their properties.
The value of such properties is estimated at about $15 billion. The law unfairly targets Muslims, analysts say.
“The government may well apply the Enemy Property Act to the Jinnah House, as it can be applied retroactively,” said Anand Grover, a lawyer who has argued the enemy property law before the Supreme Court. “It would be one way for the government to settle the numerous disputes over the property.”
(The picture at the top shows Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s house in Mumbai)