The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday ordered de-sealing of Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid’s Lal Haveli residence in Rawalpindi, overturning the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) action during the wee hours.
LHC Justice Waqas Rauf Mirza, while hearing a petition filed by the former interior minister against the trust’s actions, ordered an immediate de-sealing of the AML chief’s ancestral residence.
The court issued directions to the ETPB to de-seal the ground floor and the political secretariat situated in the Lal Haveli which is constructed on over six marla units.
Furthermore, the court asked the ETPB to decide the matter pertaining to the rest of the property after hearing the petitioner within 15 days.
While snubbing the administrator for not providing compelling arguments, the court rejected the application of the deputy attorney general and ETPB against the de-sealing order and AML chief's petition.
Earlier in the day, Rashid approached the LHC’s Rawalpindi Bench against the “complete sealing” of his residence. While submitting the plea, his lawyer urged the court to hold an urgent hearing, which was accepted.
Meanwhile, AML's workers also reached the residential property and chanted slogans against the ETPB officials
The ETPB officials had sealed seven units including two units of Lal Haveli and five adjoining units. The famous old building at Bohar Bazaar is the political office of the AML leader, who insisted he did not get any notice from the ETPB.
The ETPB officials had sealed four shops on haveli's ground floor. Rashid had built an office in two of the shops while the other two were in someone else's possession.
However, the residential part inside the Lal Haveli was not sealed. The property adjoining the haveli – constructed on three marla units – belonged to Rashid's brother and was also sealed.
According to ETPB Deputy Commissioner Asif Khan, two units of the Lal Haveli and five adjoining units were sealed after teams of the board along with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrived at the spot early morning.
He said Rashid’s ownership of these Lal Haveli units had been cancelled over illegal occupation of land. Several notices had also been issued to Rashid and his brother in this regard, he added.
‘Act of fascism, terrorism’
Earlier, in a tweet, the former minister said that he did not receive a notice prior to the action, adding sealing Lal Haveli was an act of fascism and terrorism.
“If it is proven that Lal Haveli is not our personal property, we should be declared national criminals,” Rashid said, claiming that the government took this step after it failed to find anything against him.
He maintained that a case pertaining to the ownership of the Lal Haveli was already fixed for hearing on February 15.
Later, in a press conference, Rashid said that authorities had planned to arrest him but he managed to escape.
“I was told that my ownership of Lal Haveli was of 3.5 marlas and not four marlas. These are all lies […] even if you try to touch the Lal Haveli, I will give a call and block the Murree Road,” he warned.
He revealed that he was approached by several international directors who wanted to make a movie on Lal Haveli. “They have even offered me copyrights and this is what is bothering the government.”
If any FIA officer tried to step into the territory of Lal Haveli, Rashid continued, “we will exercise our constitutional right to fight for our property”.
“We are going to the high court now […] we will tell them that if this property is not proven to be ours, then we should be disqualified,” he stated, alleging that ETPB’s Khan was the “front man” of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
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