Hot new dating spot: Pak founding father’s tomb

Karachi, September 22:

Every evening young men and women flit through the gardens that surround the white

marble dome of Karachi’s Jinnah Mausoleum — and they haven’t come to pay their respects.

The tomb of Pakistan’s revered founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who led the country to independence in 1947, has become the “in place” for lovebirds to meet once or twice a month.

It is the only spot in this teeming, volatile port city of 12 million people where courting couples can avoid the prying eyes of the police, the mullahs and their families.

“We come here to visit the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam and have a safe and secure date,” says Ramzan Jafery, an 18-year labourer at a local textile mill. His date stands next to him wearing traditional dress and a shy smile.

“Odd things happen when we go on dates at other places. Sometimes the police interrogate us and sometimes people hang around us to the extent of harassment,” Jafery says.

“But this place is quite good as we face no police intervention or people gazing at us,” adds Shazia, his 30-year-old companion.

The giant mausoleum — a powerful symbol of the tight bonds between nationalism and religion in this Islamic republic — spans a terraced 53-hectare park which is landscaped with lawns, flowers, trees and plenty of fountains.

It attracts a huge crowd of families at the weekend but on other days, especially in the humid evenings, couples find an opportunity to sit together among the dense foliage. Being in the city centre and easily accessible by public transport, it is particularly popular with poorer Karachi residents who can’t afford to go to swanky restaurants.

And the police who would elsewhere be busting young lovers are not allowed to enter.

Instead a handful of soldiers stand alert at the centre of the mausoleum where Jinnah has lain since his death in 1948. His sister Fatima Jinnah and Pakistan’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan are buried beside him.

Some civilian security guards provide the only real surveillance.

“We slap couples with a fine of up to 500 rupees (8.33 dollars) if they are caught kissing or engaged in excessive emotional acts,” resident engineer and mausoleum chief Abdul Aleem Shaikh said. “And we find such cases almost daily.”

But Shaikh said his guards would usually politely admonish such couples, unlike the police at other spots in the city.

“You can see people dating at the Royal Fort in Lahore and at the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort in India,” said Fateh Mohammad Burfat, chairman of sociology at Karachi University.