Local residents in Sialkot have been facing great difficulties in burying their deceased due to the unavailability of places for graves.
Dozens of residents have protested against the local administration and owners of several graveyards in the district complained that the owners of the property had actually begun digging up graves to accommodate the relatives of people who were paying the highest amount.
“It is absurd. We have no room to bury our family members and you aren’t entitled to a plot until you can pay the highest price,” said a resident Munawwar Bibi. “This is a criminal act and these people have no fear of God if they don’t think twice about disturbing the peace of the dead,” she added.
Locals said that there was a severe lack of plots for graves in a few of the overly populated local graveyards in Sialkot.
“There are graves being built right on top of each other and still there isn’t enough room to accommodate new graves,” said a grave digger Saad. “Sadly, people are not above demanding that some graves be excavated to accommodate their dead,” he added.
The sajjada nasheen of Hazrat Imam Aliul Haq’s (RA) shrine
Abu Saadia Javaid Ali expressed concern over this situation.
“The crisis has been brewing for years and we haven’t had enough space but the authorities have ignored the issue,” he said.
Ali said that local business tycoons and elected public representatives always focused on establishing parks and residential colonies but no one remembered grave yards.
“The city has had a new airport and public parks but somehow people seem to always over look the dead. It is true that we need to focus more on the living but when people begin bidding for graves and excavating bodies there is something seriously wrong,” he said.
Ali said that the Sialkot Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) and even the Sialkot district administration had been unable to take effective steps in this regard.
“A resting place should not require money. The poor should be able to bury their dead with just as much dignity as the rich but right now people are paying for some graves to be dug up and replaced,” he added.
Muhammad Yaqub of Harbanspura said that there were three ancient graveyards in the district including Imam Sahib, Babul Shaheed and Shah Moongaanwali but the lands of all three remained the same.
“Not one of the graveyards has been expanded in over 200 years. The graves have been built on top of one another and there is simply not enough room anymore,” he added. Former district attorney Pir Liaqat Ali Shah said that the few smaller graveyards had been established by locals by themselves. “People have pooled in their own money to buy plots on land donated by philanthropists to bury their dead. This is the duty of the district administration,” he added.
Shah said that the TMA should work to provide plots for graves as soon as possible. “When a relative dies there is more than enough to deal with than haggling over a grave,” he said.
Social, religious and political circles have expressed concern over the situation and have urged the district administration and provincial government to take serious notice to provide plots for new graveyards in the district.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.