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Shop Owners Adjacent to Hafeez Center Increase Rents After Tragedy

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Following the tragedy of the Hafeez Center fire, the shop owners in plazas adjacent to the building have started increasing rents as more and more people look to establish new businesses after their loss there. This information was revealed by Syed Roohan Sajjad – a computer retailer who is operating out of a shop at Hafeez Center.

As Hafeez Center has burned to the ground, three buildings around it i.e. IT Tower, Jeff Heights and Al-Hafeez Shopping Mall are being sought out the most by those who had shops in the now burned building. Talking about this move, Sajjad said that shop owners of these adjacent plazas, instead of being considerate and supportive of others in this hard time, have actually increased their rents exponentially.

“I along with other computer retailers have already given the token money to Al-Hafeez shopping mall to temporarily shift our business there. However, these plazas are also now using the fire incident to their advantage and have increased rents by multiple-folds”, said Sajjad.

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Giving an example of such behavior by a shop owner, he informed that he had rented a shop in Jeff Heights only two months ago at Rs. 13,000. However, since the fire, the rent has drastically increased and the shop just opposite to it has been rented out at somewhere between 40,000 and  50,000 rupees.

First-Hand Experience of the Fire

Sajjad is the owner of shop no. 12 in Hafeez Centre on the second floor of the plaza. His shop was right opposite to the computer repairing shop no. 67 and 68 where the fire began. As per Sajjad, the plaza suffered damages worth Rs. 1.5 billion because of the fire. While the exact cause of the fire has not yet been pinpointed, Sajjad believes it was caused due to faulty wiring.

“About two months after Covid-19 lockdown, when the plaza reopened, the electricity disconnected frequently. When the air conditioners were turned on in the summer, the breakers couldn’t take the load and the power of the entire plaza would go out,” he said, revealing that the signs were already there.

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Diving into the details of the day of the incident and how the rescue staff failed to respond promptly, he said;

“The fire started around 5 am Sunday morning. I reached by 6 am. Until then only three shops had caught fire, and the rescue team was already on site. However, they did not have the required gear to enter into the fire and put it out. It was not until approximately noon that the fire brigade, with all the necessary equipment, got to the scene. Even after that, the water availability and pressure were not enough. Their stock of water finished by the time one shop’s fire was out. It took several hours until water flow and pressure were fixed.”

Sajjad further revealed that what added to the woes of the traders from Hafeez Center (this probably being their own responsibility), majority of the retailers, importers and distributors operating from the plaza did not have insurance for their shops. Therefore, the traders union will not assist them with recovering their losses in the fire.

When is the plaza reopening for business?

Several people who work at Hafeez Center have expressed their desire for the government to re-open the plaza for as soon as possible even if the losses are not recovered. However, Sajjad disagrees with them for safety purposes. “Hafeez Center was constructed 30 years ago. It is a matter of safety and security that it is demolished and re-constructed now,” he said.

For an estimate on when the plaza’s opening again, he also informed that the building has been given a green signal by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in its preliminary inspection. It is important to note though that a second inspection is still due so it is very much likely that the plaza will remain closed for business for approximately another fortnight.

 

Read also: Instagram Influencer Fatima Nasir Apologizes for Insensitive Post on Hafeez Centre Fire

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