ISLAMABAD: Following a barrage of criticism on social media, the management of Islamabad’s largest shopping mall has apparently relented in its decision to impose a Rs100 entry fee.
The management of Centaurus is now saying that the Rs100 requirement will only be implemented from 8pm onwards and insists that amount is adjustable with any purchases made during visits to the mall.
Earlier this week, Centaurus announced that all visitors to the mall would now have to purchase entry passes worth Rs100 each, before entering in the mall. However, individuals from 23 professional categories have been exempted from the requirement, including women, children, senior citizens, diplomats, journalists, lawyers, doctors and government officers.
The move ignited online debate and sparked outrage amongst social media users, who criticised the decision for being discriminatory. Most people said they believed that every person should be allowed to enter the mall without an entry ticket and there should be no favouritism.
Centaurus admin says amount is adjustable, will only be applicable after 8pm
PTI leader Shireen Mazari tweeted: “Sick how Centaurus is charging ordinary ppl an entry fee & exempting rich & privileged! Nowhere in the world does this happen! Apartheid! (sic)”
Another Twitter user, Faria, posted: “If there will be fees at Centaurus then it should be compulsory for everyone not just a few. Height of hypocrisy (sic)”.
But there are also those who, like the mall’s administration, feel that the move was necessary to deal with overcrowding.
Jamsheed Khan, a first-time visitor to Centaurus, told Dawn on Saturday that he had spent a lot of time trying to get into the mall, but failed.
“I parked my car in the basement and despite queuing for nearly half an hour, my wife and I still couldn’t manage to get into the mall because all the elevators were full. When we asked a guard where the staircase was, he said we would have to walk out of the basement to get to the stairs,” he said.
“How can someone be expected to walk hundreds of yards in the heat while fasting, just to gain access to a shopping mall,” he asked, and said the management should ensure easy access for every visitor who came to the mall.
Rizwan Bashir, another visitor to the mall, said that Centaurus was crowded because it was the only large mall in the city.
“Capital Development Authority should ensure that other malls are also opened soon so that the crowds here can be split between them,” he said.
However, young Kamran Ahmed criticized the decision and said it was aimed at humiliating those who came to browse, not buy.
“I have lived in Europe, where people can spend hours wandering around malls, window shopping. There is nothing wrong with that,” he said.
A mall employee, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that the number of people coming to the mall had increased exponentially after the inauguration of the metro bus service.
“Many people come here now to pass the time. This entry fee has been imposed to get rid of the elements that don’t come to buy anything,” he said.
Centaurus Marketing Manager Kashif Butt told Dawn that every building had a particular capacity, as well as specific security needs.
“Currently, we receive around 25,000 visitors every day. But in our three-year experience, we know that these numbers can rise to 50,000 per day after the 15th of Ramazan, which would be very difficult to handle,” he said.
“The administration was wary of the young men who would come to the mall and just wander around or disturb others who had come with their families. A number of families have even complained about certain rowdy boys’ behaviour,” he said.
Mr Butt said that the measure had been taken at the request of shop owners, adding that it was yet to be decided whether this stipulation would remain in place beyond Ramazan.