Frere Hall, known for being an unbarred space that welcomes all, is undergoing construction that will allegedly fence the public gardens and netizens are not happy about this development.
A Sunday escape, a book lover's haven, a family's go-to picnic spot — Frere Hall is a space that may not change in form but it means many different things to different people. Recently, construction began on the Abdullah Haroon Road side of the famous city landmark. People believe a gate is being constructed and staged a protest on Sunday.
Chanting slogans against the "poor" decision of building gates, protesters held up banners and placards in red with the words "No Fence" and "Say No to Frere Hall Gate" written in bold black.
The reaction is not limited to the in-person protest — Pakistani Twitter is full of backlash by netizens enraged by the decision. They are calling out the clear "privatisation" of the public space that not only widens "class disparity" but is also a "visual obstruction" in Frere Hall's beauty.
Architect and Pakistan Chowk Community Centre Director Marvi Mazhar addressed the issue and stressed on the importance of the citizens' involvement in public design the way mega cities do. "Government officials must focus on infrastructural issues and not on beautification of the city from their lens," she said.
Karachi's Administrator Murtaza Wahab denied that gates were being placed.
However, the argument that it isn't a gate but some other sort of construction was already addressed by Mazhar, who said no matter what the obstruction is, the input of the public is required before undertaking any project.
Many Twitter users, including lawyer Jibran Nasir, tagged Wahab and pointed out how public spaces seem to move towards "limited right of access for ordinary citizens and a sense of exclusivity for the elite".
Academic Nida Kirmani asked Wahab to "listen to citizens’ voices" instead of "the interests of private capital".
Designer Maheen Khan remarked how there are graver issues that need attention such as the "GARBAGE SYSTEM, the open storm water drains and the choked sewerage".
Former OUP Pakistan managing director Ameena Saiyid asked the Sindh government to put a stop to this.
Netizens talked about the citizens' right to have "unobstructed entry to public parks".
Some pointed out how crucial "inclusive and green open spaces" are to people's well-being.
An 80-year-old user recalled his childhood memories associated with Frere Hall, saying "this monstrosity must be stopped".
Not only are netizens angry about the resultant class disparity, but also how "ugly" the obstruction looks, tainting the historic building's beauty.
What's your take on the construction?