The award of ownership rights to occupants of more than 100 marlas of trust land in Ichhra has been declared unjustified and illegal, The Express Tribune learnt on Tuesday.
Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Secretary Sikandar Ismail Khan gave the ruling on a revision petition filed by Munir Ahmed Mian, a resident of the area, challenging former Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) chairman Sayed Asif Hashmi’s order that had declared the land belonging to a Hindu temple Kachi Abadi. Hashmi had justified a notification by the then provincial government that gave encroachers in that area ownership of the land.
The secretary held that a previous notification by the Kachi Abadis and Urban Development director general, that had declared 118 of the 213 marlas of Mandir Behro Asthan’s land on Pir Ghazi Road as Kachi Abadi, was unjustified.
Mandir Behro Asthan is surrounded by a 20-feet high wall. However, the structures inside have been damaged as several occupants have constructed homes there. One of the houses has even converted the podium of one of the temple’s towers (vimana) into a room.
The petitioner told Khan that several people had moved into the temple after the Partition. They had altered its structures, built to accommodate devotees from far flung areas, to build houses for themselves.
The ETPB took control of the land in 1960 and collected rent from the occupants. In 2007, former chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, under the Kafalat Programme, declared 118 marlas of the temple land a Kachi Abadi and awarded its occupants ownership of the land.
In 2010, the Kachi Abadi Department issued a notification in this regard. The same year, then MNA Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and MPA Mian Numan announced ownership rights for 24 families living on the land and in a public procession, christened it Madina Colony
Soon after, an assistant director of the ETPB filed a reference before the chairman stating that trust land could not be declared a Kachi Abadi and no one could be given ownership of the land.
However, former ETPB chairman Sayed Asif Hashmi on August 24, 2010, dismissed the reference stating that the land was not related to the temple.
In his written order, Hashmi said the occupants had never paid the Evacuee Trust Property Board rent, nor had they ever accepted the ETPB’s ownership of the land. Therefore, Hashmi said, the disputed land had been conferred the status of a notified Kachi Abadi.
Muhammad Munir Mian had challenged this order before the secretary of the ministry of religious affairs and interfaith harmony. He held that notification issued by Hashmi was not justified.
Rana Tariq Javed, deputy administrator of the ETPB, told The Express Tribune that they had initiated action after receiving the secretary’s order. He said they had issued rent bills (Rs124 to Rs300 monthly rent) to the residents. He said some of the residents had paid the amount, the rest would pay soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2014.
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