Netizens are not happy with the undergoing construction of Frere Hall, known for being an unbarred space open for all, that is reportedly going to fence the gardens and will no longer be available for common public. Frere Hall means different things to different people. It has been a picnic spot for many, a Sunday escape for some and a book lover’s heaven. Lately this landmark has come under construction on Abdullah Haroon Road side of this famous city landmark. People are under impression that a gate is being constructed and they carried out a protest on Sunday carrying slogans against this “poor” decision of building gates.
Protestors held up banners and playcards saying “NO Fence” and “Say No to Frere Hall” written in bold letters. The reaction is seen not only by in-person protests but netizens are also outraged at the decision and Twitter is full of blacklash for this “privatization” of public place that not only widens “class disparity” but is also a visual obstruction of the beauty of Frere Hall.
Marvi Mazhar, architect and Pakistan Chowk Community Centre Director stressed on the fact that government officials must focus on infrastructural issues and not on the beautification of city from their lense. She tweeted saying “This is not a design for arch, and placing a structure here on a thoroughfare adds speculative method of future mechanism for condoning off. Columns are the critical junction for a structure.” She also added that citizens must be involved in public designing the way mega cities do. “Frere Hall is one of the most Democratic, Interactive, and Well-Utilized Public Spaces for all classes in Karachi. Today, neo liberal decisions of fencing, gating, arching is as an act of obstruction / protecting Public Spaces needs debate with the Public.”
Karachi’s administrator refused that gates were under construction but also admitted that some sort of construction is on way and also said that input of public is required no matter what sort of construction it is. Many Twitter users are protesting against all kinds of construction including the lawyer Jibran Nasir who twitted tagging administrator Murtaza, “should every “public” space of Karachi be a celebration of class disparity, limited right of access for ordinary citizens & sense of exclusivity for the elite. #FrereHall is a green island which welcomes all. Building big gates/fences is akin to privatizing it.” Academic Nida Kirmani asked Wahab to “listen to citizens’ voices” instead of “the interests of private capital”. Designer Maheen Khan also protested that in Karachi there are so many other issues like garbage system, drainage, cleanliness to focus on and rather government choses nothing better to do than fence Frere Hall. Former OUP Pakistan has also asked Singh government to put a stop to it.
Netizens raised their voices for the citizens’ right to have “unobstructed entry to public parks”. The elder netizens recalled their memories of their good times at Frere hall. They pointed out the significance of green spaces for people’s wellbeing. They also highlighted the ugliness of the obstruction and how it is affecting the architectural beauty of the landmark.