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January 13, 2015

Public school reclaimed from clutches of ‘land mafia’


January 13, 2015

Amid the Sindh government’s tall claims of making foolproof security arrangements to prevent terror attacks on educational institutions, a public school in Green Town of Shah Faisal Colony was occupied by the land mafia.
During the summer holidays, a major portion of the school’s building was demolished on behalf of a man who claimed to be “the real owner”.
However, some portion of the main building was in use by the school’s management where children used to sit amid debris and under old tents.
But when the students returned from the extended winter holidays, they were shocked to see that the school was completely occupied and that they would be unable to attend classes.
For five months, they were being educated in makeshift classrooms without walls around them or a roof over them.
Despite complaining to the education department a number of times, no relief was ever provided to them.
In the morning shift, the students of the Akhtar Government Primary and Secondary School attended classes while the Asif Government Boys Primary and Lower Secondary School taught children in the second shift.
Following the terrorist attack on the Peshawar-based Army Public School, the government has been claiming that security around schools was beefed up, but it failed to resolve the issue of the Green Town school.
During the 22-day winter holidays, a new cemented wall was erected at the school’s premises, splitting the school in two halves.
On Monday the principal, teachers and children were shocked to witness that the school’s building had been demolished.
The teachers conducted classes amid the debris for a while, but then allowed the children to go back home.
Like the students of other public and private schools, the children being educated at the Akhtar Government Primary and Secondary School were also excited about the reopening of their school, but they had to return home with little hope of attending

classes anytime soon.

Ebad takes action
Soon after the news went viral, Governor Ishrat-ul-Ebad, accompanied by Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Siddiqui, visited the affected school and ordered rectifying the situation.
Pledging action against the land mafia, Ebad said he had talked to the education department for the reconstruction of the school.
He ordered starting the reconstruction on Tuesday (today) and offered shifting the school to another building until the reconstruction is completed.
The governor also directed the commissioner to investigate the incident and recommend a permanent solution to the problem.
He directed the commissioner and the relevant police officer to immediately deploy policemen for the security of the school building.
He assured the school headmistress that the education secretary would visit the school and look into the occupation issue.
Talking to the media, the governor said the school building had apparently been on a claimed piece of land, adding that the matter would be fully investigated.
He said the people allegedly in possession of the land had said they had rented it to the education department, but the education authorities said they owned the land.

FIR registered
Education Minister Nisar Khuhro said a first information report (FIR) was registered against the illegal occupation of the government school.
According to him, the police chief would take strict action against the land mafia. He said the school’s management, the education executive district officer and other officials had not reported the matter to the education department. However, he assured that the department would rid the schools of encroachments.
Shah Faisal SHO Naseem Farooqi said the police had received a complaint in mid-December from Nasreen Bano, the school’s owner, against Saleem Anwarwala. She said the accused and his associates had illegally occupied the school.
Police lodged a land grabbing complaint against the accused, who filed a civil suit and caused the school to be locked up.

School’s background
The school was built over a 1,000-square-yard plot in the late 1960s. Like other educational institutions, it was nationalised during the early 1970s.
In 1981, however, the education department consolidated the Akhtar Government Girls Primary and Secondary School with the boys’ school, which operated in the afternoon shift.
Until the summer holidays, a total of four public schools operated with more than 400 enrolled students, but after the vacation the enrolment decreased quickly because a major portion of the school was encroached.
The city director of school education, Abdul Wahab Abbasi, said Anwarwala was using fake documents to claim ownership of the government plot.
The school’s administration said Abbasi never bothered to visit the school and he had kept silent on the demolition of the school.
Abbasi, however, claimed that in the five months that followed the summer holidays, the government had been busy arranging the amount required for the school’s reconstruction. “So far Rs150,000 have been gathered, while roughly Rs6.7 million would be required.”
The headmistress said the education department and the Korangi District Municipal Corporation had done nothing other than paying lip service.
“The education department should resolve the matter at once for a better future of the remaining students.”

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