Calgary Pakistan community centre broken into, vandalized

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WATCH: Calgary's Pakistani community is looking for answers after its community association hall was broken into over the weekend and two pictures of Pakistan’s founding fathers were torn down. Michael King reports. – Nov 2, 2020

Calgary police are investigating after a break-in at the Pakistan Canada Association (PCA) over the weekend as those in the community worry about deliberate acts of vandalism.

Ansar Qureshi, the general secretary for the PCA, said the break-in happened between Oct. 30 at 4:30 p.m. and Oct. 31 at 11 a.m.

“I realized a lot of cabinets are broken into, locks that were broken. I went upstairs [and] there was a lot of equipment that was stolen,” said Qureshi.

Qureshi said a 55-inch TV, a projector, speakers and microphones were taken, but it was the damage to two photos hung high on the centre’s wall that struck him as concerning.

“Two pictures of our founding fathers of our great country were ripped off and were thrown on the ground,” Qureshi said Monday.

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“Who would deliberately take a ladder that’s on the second floor of our hall, bring it downstairs and purposely set it up, climb up about 15 feet and rip off those frames? To me, [that] seems more of a hate crime.”

Read more: Calgarians gather to mourn deaths in Pakistan school massacre

Police said in a statement that they are investigating the break-in but the case is primarily being handled by district officers and not the Calgary Police Service’s Hate Crimes Unit.

“The hate crimes co-ordinator will assist should any evidence of a hate crime arise as a result of the investigation,” said a CPS spokesperson.

Police said there were no security cameras installed and no one is in custody, but items including a cardboard sign suggest the suspect or suspects are homeless.

Qureshi said the theft seemed to be organized since the equipment that was stolen would not have been easy to move.

“It’s not a one-person job,” said Qureshi. “This is like a two- or three-person job to move all that stuff.”

Anyone with information on the break-in is asked to contact police.

Public support

Several politicians stopped by the centre to see the damage for themselves on Sunday, including Alberta’s Minister for Communities and Social Services Rajan Sawhney.

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“I wanted to come here right away and just to express my solidarity with the association and with the entire community,” said Sawhney. “[I] roundly condemn this act of vandalism and cowardice.”

Muhammad Yaseen, the MLA for Calgary-North, said he was shocked by the damage done to a group that runs a number of programs across Calgary.

“I just can’t imagine that something like this would happen to Pakistan Canada Association,”
said Yaseen. “[The PCA] has been doing a lot of community work, helping people, helping vulnerable people, homeless people over the years.”

Qureshi said the association will be ramping up security to prevent similar break-ins from happening again.

He added that the PCA will be continuing its food hamper program aimed at supporting those who’ve been hit hard by the pandemic.

Qureshi said it’s lucky that the suspects didn’t touch the tens of thousands of dollars in food that was being prepared for the hampers.


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