After occupying parts of two Christian cemeteries in Pakistan, emboldened Muslims have now unlawfully occupied the agricultural land of at least seven Christian villages at the behest of “influential Muslim men.”
|Waseem Shakir protests in one of the cemeteries|
This was alleged to ANS on Sunday, March 20, 2011 by Waseem Shakir, a renowned Pakistani Christian journalist and a stalwart Christian rights defender, in a telephone conversation from Muzaffargarh, a city in southwestern Punjab, Pakistan.
Shakir named the affected Christian villages as: 584-TDA, 586-TDA, 587-TDA, 547-TDA, 588-TDA, 548-TDA, 552-TDA, all within the Thall Development Authority (TDA), with an approximate Christian population of 17,000 and claimed that they were forcibly evicted from their agricultural land by the Board of Revenue (BOR) of Kot Addu of the Muzaffargarh district.
He said that in 1988, a Catholic clergyman, Fr. Derrick, obtained this land for Christians for “cultivation and residential purposes” and added that in 2010, the Christian owners/farmers and dwellers of these areas, were forced to leave their land by the BOR.
He also alleged that “some Muslim sources also wanted to re-sell the same land which was allocated to the Christians in 1988.”
Talking about the present condition of the case, Mr. Shakir said that now the National Commission for Justice & Peace (NCJP) has secured “stay orders for the said plots of land.”
He went to claim that Muslim men and the BOR were now “threatening to auction the land” which was previously owned by the Christians, adding that “this is the same land which was a desert at the time” but “due to their efforts, it had become a paradise and beneficial agricultural land” and therefore the Muslims started to cast “malicious eyes” on these pieces of land granted by then Pakistan People’s Party-led government.
In his plea to the government, Waseem Shakir said that, during the time span of 1988 to 2011, this land was owned by Christians, therefore the price of land should be lesser for Christians than others including Muslims.
Local Christian elders and Shakir have now appealed to the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Chief Minister of Punjab and the Chief Justice of the Apex court of Pakistan, to provide this facility “to the Christians to meet the ends of the justice.”
Replying to a question about the Christian graves left behind, Shakir said there were now only 26 Christian graves intact following the “illegal occupation” of most of the two graveyards by Muslim men.
Waseem Shakir also said that Muslims were erecting workshops, general stores, hospital and other building on the Christians’ graveyards, and that “no one was there to stop them erecting these encroachments.”