It may be raging in the Sindh Assembly now, but the debate over Karachi’s iconic Bagh Ibn-e-Qasim started far away from government circles. Social media learned that the park was being handed over to real estate developer Bahria Town, and independent individuals started an online campaign to halt what was thought to be a putative sale of the park. To the credit of the social media activists the campaign worked. Massive attention was drawn to the incident and the criticism forced the CEO of Bahria Town, Malik Riaz, to release a statement clarifying that this was not a transfer or sale of land, only an agreement by which Bahria Town would beautify and manage the dilapidated park for ten year, and that the nothing will be done until all stakeholders – the Sindh legislative and executive branch – sign of on this decision.

Here is where things started to go south; the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) jumped at the chance to put the Pakistan People‘s Party (PPP) to the sword. The party was furious that they, and especially the mayor of Karachi, Wassem Akhtar of MQM, were left out of the deliberations. Not to be outdone, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) joined the fray, with party leader Imran Ismail filing a petition with the Sindh High Court against the transfer of the land to Bahria town. The matter was taken up in the Sindh Assembly, and everything from MQM’s alleged land grabbing of public property to PPP allowing wedding marquees to be operated on public parks was discussed – fought over rather.

In the densely populated urban sprawl of Karachi land, large tracts of centrally located public land are a precious commodity. A debate over the use and misuse of public lands is surely warranted, but the knee-jerk fashion in which this one started, and the fact that it is more of an angry brawl rather than a deliberate discussion makes it a political show and little more. No one is debating the principles under which public property should be used by private parties, no one is discussing how public land should be monitored, or what should be done with previous encroachments.

Even the ostensible subject of the debate – the dilapidated Bagh Ibn-e-Qasim – has slipped from notice. The merit and demerits of the transfer have been paid little attention and no opposition party has forwarded an alternative through which the park would be revamped.

This “controversy” has gone too far off the rails, it needs to brought back to the grounds, and the facts of it discussed, not the politics.