Islamabad on Thursday asked India to respect its “ownership rights” to Jinnah House – a property in Mumbai that belonged to Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah. “We also expect that the Indian government will fulfil its obligation of protecting the property and its upkeep,” said Spokesperson for the Pakistani Foreign Office Nafees Zakria, according to The Express Tribune.
The bungalow, worth around $400 million (approximately Rs 2,600 crore) spread over a 2.5-acre plot in the city’s Malabar Hills area, has been at the centre of an ownership dispute for decades. It is now called South Court.
Zakaria’s statement was in response to Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Mangal Lodha’s demand on Monday for Jinnah House to be demolished and for a cultural centre to be built in its place. Speaking during the Budget Session in the Maharashtra Assembly, Lodha had said that the Public Works Department spends lakhs to maintain the property, adding that the “Jinnah House is a symbol of the Partition” and that was where the founder of Pakistan had conspired to divide the country.
Zakaria said Pakistan had reiterated its claim to the property numerous times. “The property belongs to the founder of Pakistan and should be given to Pakistan. On various occasions, the Indian government has promised to hand over the property to the government of Pakistan, but has not fulfilled their commitment yet,” he said.
Besides the Indian and Pakistani governments, Jinnah’s daughter Dina Wadia had also claimed ownership of the house, but two other residents of Mumbai – Jinnah’s grandniece’s son and grandson Mohamed Ebrahim and Shakir Ebrahim – had refuted her claim as the sole heir to the property. The Indian government has maintained that Jinnah had left the property to his sister Fatima Jinnah through his will dated May 30, 1939.