Metro bus project: After environment, grave desecration on the cards

Municipal administration’s comments sought on May 7.


The small graveyard. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID/ EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD:


In executing the metro bus project in the capital, the twin cities’ municipal administrations are facing resistance from the owner of a graveyard situated on a green belt on 9th Avenue, which is going to be uprooted.


A legal battle between Rawalpindi’s civic agency and the owner of a private graveyard which falls in the way of the multi-billion metro bus project has started after he obtained a stay order against possible demolition.

Contractors have begun digging the green belt adjoining 9th Avenue, but 20 graves lie in the way. The graveyard, owned by Raja Kaleem, is where his family members have been buried since 1945.  Kaleem told The Express Tribune, that his family had relinquished their claim on compensation for  ancestral land and asked Capital Development Authority (CDA) to let them retain ownership of the graveyard in 1960.

He said on May 1, the contractor had assured him that the graveyard would be protected. “But I was worried it might be demolished and I’ve obatined a stay order.” The graveyard covers one kanal and one marla.

Kaleem said his family members had been buried in the graveyard for decades. The first grave was of his grandfather Raja Gulab Khan, who died in 1945. “Before Islamabad was declared the federal capital, my forefathers lived in Nerella village, which falls in Sector I-8.”

The owner claimed that the court had sought comments from the administration on May 7, after he filed a case. “The tractors will trample our ancestors’ bodies, therefore we will never allow the administration to demolish our graveyard.” How can this project be in the public interest when it damages private property, he asked, adding there was enough space to proceed with the project without removing the graveyard.

The last burial that took place in the graveyard was of his father Raja Ghulam Hussain, who died in April 2013.

CDA Municipal Administration (DMA) Director Hamza Shafqat said if there was a family graveyard, the authority could not remove it, though it had restrained the owners from extending it.

Rawalpindi Commissioner Capt. (retd) Zahid Saeed, who is also project director for the metro bus, claimed he had already discussed the issue with CDA chairman, who had assured him of his support. He said the issue of graveyards was also faced by the local administration in Lahore, and it was amicably resolved with input from religious scholars. “We’ll apply the same principle here.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2014.

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