Land grab: surprise! It’s “government property.” “The land was declared state land by the district collector in 2007.” “Church Property: Demolition denounced,” by Rabia Mehmood for the Express Tribune, January 10:
LAHORE: The National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCPJ) has accused the Punjab government of illegally demolishing a welfare centre allegedly without a notice.
The centre, Gosha-e-Aman, on Allama Iqbal Road, Garhi Shahu, was a property of the Catholic Church. Father Emmanuel Yousuf Mani, the NCPJ national director, told a press conference at the Lahore Press Club on Tuesday that the demolished compound was home to three families and worth billions of rupees. He said the property was registered as the Lahore Charitable Association and was managed by CARITAS Pakistan.
Father Emmanuel said litigation concerning the property was in court, and a stay order had been issued against its demolition.
Father Emmanuel told The Express Tribune that he found District Coordination Officer Ahad Khan Cheema with policemen and demolition machines when he went to the centre in the morning. He said they demolished the building despite his efforts to stop them. The Christian community representatives said that the DCO informed them that the property had been transferred to the government. They said the property was a Catholic Church property and could not be transferred without permission.
Tariq Zaman, a staff officer at the district coordination office, told The Express Tribune that the land was declared state land by the district collector in 2007. Since then, he said, the government representative had several times notified the owners of the centre.
Zaman said if the Catholic Church claimed that they owned the land, then they should present papers and court orders to explain their position to the government. The Christian community have announced a protest today.
Catch-22: a court date would have been a logical time to present documentation, but the government jumped the gun and destroyed the buildings before the case could be resolved in court.