PESHAWAR: The directives by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to the city district administration to remove encroachments from all graveyards in the provincial capital seem to have proved ineffective.
General Secretary of the Save Graveyards Movement Azhar Ali Shah told The News on Sunday that still houses were being built in Mustafa Shah Cemetery situated in Zargarabad locality. He also claimed that the district administration was deceiving the court by showing fake records of its operation against encroachment in the graveyards.
“Due to strong political backing and land mafia pressure, the city administration is helpless to run an effective operation for removal of encroachments from graveyards,” he said, adding that the PHC had given two-month deadline to the city administration to book all encroachers under Section 3 of maintenance of public order (MPO) and arrest them if they resisted the drive, but to no avail.
About former district coordination officer (DCO) Siraj Ahmad Khan’s claim and progress report that he had submitted in the court, he said it was fake record and in reality only one percent encroachments made by the poor and helpless people were removed while the buildings and encroachments of those having strong political backing were not even touched.
On June 5, a division bench headed by PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan had issued notice to the DCO to explain his position about removal of encroachments, but the provincial government transferred him as political agent of North Waziristan before appearance in the court and appointed Muhammad Javed Marwat as the new DCO for Peshawar.
The removal of encroachments from the city graveyards and compliance with the court orders would be a tough task for the new DCO. Azhar Ali Shah claimed there was tremendous pressure on the city administration from political figures regarding operation against the encroachments as they have shares worth millions of rupees in the lands encroached at graveyards.
He said the Save Graveyards Movement activists had visited the graveyards and taken photos and other proofs, whereas the district administration was claiming demolition of buildings and shops.
He said the authorities had conducted a fake operation as the administration only ran tractors on plain lands near the graveyards and showed in the record that they had demolished the encroachments.
The bench also ordered Frontier Constabulary commandant, capital city police officer and Home and Tribal Affairs secretary to provide full security to the district administration during the grand operation against encroachments.
The Save Graveyards Movement has claimed that the Abdur Rehman Baba graveyard, the largest in the city, was originally spread over an area of 198 acres but has now been reduced to 74 acres only.
A petitioner, Arsalan Pasha, said some land grabbers had occupied his ancestral graveyard measuring more than 12 kanals and four marlas in Beri Bagh area. He claimed that he had ownership documents of the land dating back to 1870s.