Attempt to encroach shuttered consulate in Karachi: India protests to Pakistan
India has lodged a protest with Pakistan over an attempt by unidentified people to encroach on its shuttered consulate in the port city of Karachi and demanded the property must be cleared of any unauthorised occupants, people familiar with developments said.
The protest over the attempted encroachment was conveyed to Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner Haider Shah when he was summoned to the external affairs ministry on Thursday, the people said.
In a note verbale or unsigned diplomatic note, the Indian side described the incident that occurred on Wednesday night as a serious matter and said any unauthorised occupants should be removed from the premises. The people said a group of men allegedly forcibly entered the property after threatening private guards posted there.
The consulate in Karachi was shut in 1994 and old Pakistan hands say the decision was pushed by the military establishment as it didn’t want the presence of Indian diplomats in the city where the conspiracy for the 1993 Mumbai blasts was hatched and terrorist Dawood Ibrahim is based. Subsequently, Pakistan linked the reopening of the Karachi consulate to being allowed to open a consulate in Mumbai.
Located on Fatima Jinnah Road, one of Karachi’s most prestigious areas, the former consulate stands quietly on an otherwise bustling street. Down the road is the residence of the US consul general and at one end is Sindh Club, where Karachi’s elite meet on most evenings.
India House is the exception in a happening part of Karachi, and at night, no lights can be seen in the six-storey building, giving it a haunted look. Its gates remain closed, with only a small door opening to the road being used by families of guards.
The rear of the building, where once hundreds would queue to file visa applications, has been sealed. People in the neighbourhood complained the caretakers tasked with maintaining the building do little. They said the overgrown trees are a bother and stray dogs living around the premises attack pedestrians at night.
The neighbours also complained that drug addicts have sometimes found their way into the premises and, over the years, stripped most parts bare. Wooden and electrical fittings have been stolen while steel and iron have also been pried loose and sold.
Rajiv Dogra, India’s last consul general in Karachi, said the country owned five properties in Karachi, including the consulate, the consul general’s residence in the upmarket Clifton area and three multi-storey buildings once used to house staff.
“It’s hard to believe such a blatant attempt to occupy this building happened without the knowledge of the Pakistan government. Even in the late 1990s, an attempt was made to occupy the consul general’s residence. At that time, an Indian official from Islamabad was sent to deal with the problem and it was sorted out,” he said.