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January 17, 2012

‘Punjab accused of making efforts to usurp evacuee land’


January 17, 2012

Through the 18th amendment, the Punjab government wants to usurp the Evacuee Trust Property Board’s (ETPB’s) land worth billions, which is tantamount to snatching the rights of minorities.
Pakistan is already criticized for its discriminatory laws and practices against minorities, and efforts should be made to improve, not tarnish, this image of the country in the comity of nations.
The ETPB was not devolved under the 18th Amendment; as it cannot be, according to the Constitution of Pakistan.
These views were shared by speakers at the Jang Forum held here on “Role of Government Departments and Individuals in Safeguarding Minority Rights”.
The guests at the forum included: ETPB chairman Syed Asif Hashmi, Islami Nazriyati Council member Allam Zubair Ahmed Zaheer, Sikh leader Sardar Shiyam Singh and Hindu minority leader Dr Munawwar Chand. The forum was hosted by eminent journalist Iftikhar Ahmad.
Syed Asif Hashmi said it was the first time in Pakistan’s history that the ETPB had been taken out of the clutches of a selected few. The level of accessibility and facilitation provided by the departments could be gauged from the visiting Sikh and Hindu pilgrims and their office bearers, he added. In the past, he alleged, the grants of ETPB were embezzled and used by the office bearers.
He said the Punjab government intended to usurp the ETPB’s land worth billions of rupees in the province through the 18th Amendment. He alleged that the Sharifs wanted to grab some 2,000 acres of land of the ETPB that surrounded their Raiwind residence.
He vowed not to let anyone garb even an inch of ETPB land, no matter how powerful and resourceful the grabbers were. He alleged that the Punjab government was not even ready to issue the entitlement papers of around 56 kanals of prime land in Lahore.
He said that the current ETPB had increased Sikhs Gathering events from four to eight which had not only improved Pakistan’s relations but

also contributed to reviving tourism in the country.
Allam Zubair Ahmed Zaheer said that Islam is the first religion which preaches respect for other religions and their followers. There had been ruthless crimes and violence against Muslims across the globe yet they had exercised restraint to do the same against minorities. He lauded the work of the ETPB chairman and said that the trust developed by him among the Sikh community had earned Pakistan accolades.
Sardar Shiyam Singh said that Mian Mir Sahab had laid the foundation stone of a Gordawara back in the days of Arjun Singh. Since then, he said, no one has had the privilege of doing the same thing except Asif Hashmi.
Dr Munwwar Chand said that Hindus, though a religious minority, identified themselves with Pakistan more than anything else.
The enemies of Pakistan were always planning to orchestrate events and accidents that would defile its image in the international community, he said, urging the minorities not to take bait of the propaganda. He also called for the need to resume holding ceremonies in relevance with the religious minorities at the Governor’s House.

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