Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court on Friday legalised restrictions placed by the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) on the use of its graveyards by tenants and non-residents by dismissing a petition challenging these restrictions.
Petitioner Shahid Jaafri, through counsel Muhammad Ahmad Qayyum, had asked the court to direct the DHA to allow him and his wife to be buried in a DHA graveyard. He said though he had lived in DHA for 27 years, he was not being allowed space in the graveyard because he did not own property in the area.
The DHA, in its reply to the petition, submitted that if they allowed everyone to use the graveyards, they would not have enough space for property owners.
The petitioner submitted that he had owned property in Defence but sold it and moved into rented accommodation 13 years ago. He said he runs a free school in DHA. He said he had written to DHA authorities seeking an assurance that they would not stop his children from burying him and/or his wife in the graveyard, but they declined.
His counsel Qayyum argued that it was illegal to bar anybody from burying a body in any graveyard. He said it was a principle of Islam that once a property is declared a Waqf property, every citizens of the country has an equal right over it. He said as any Muslim can pray in any mosque, no Muslim can be barred from burying their dead relative in any graveyard.
In its reply, the DHA said that they had set aside the place for graveyards and they had a right to regulate their use and bar tenants and non-residents. They said that if they allowed non residents to bury their dead in DHA graveyards, everyone would prefer using DHA graveyards and it would be difficult for them to find space for their property owners.
Qayyum, later speaking to The Express Tribune, said he did not feel the court had properly considered his arguments. He said that the petition had been filed nine years ago. “The petitioner’s father-in-law is buried in the graveyard but he and his wife won’t be thanks to this decision,” he said. “It is discrimination against tenants and also residents of other areas of the city.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2011.