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Wednesday October 27, 2021

Minorities demand protection of properties

September 25, 2021

LAHORE:Senior minority stakeholders held deliberations on the issue of the protection of communal properties in a round-table conference.

The conference held under the auspices of the Centre for Social Justice was joined by human right experts, senior minorities’ leadership, lawyers, in person and online. In March 2021, in the backdrop of complaints, the Supreme Court directed a forensic audit of the communal properties managed by the ETPB that belonged to Hindus and Sikh communities. The SC directed the Auditor General of Pakistan to complete the audit in six months (till September 2021). On the other hand, the National Assembly passed a bill on June 26, 2021, seeking to amend the Protection of Communal Properties Act 2001, which is under process in the Senate.

Peter Jacob, Director Centre for Social Justice regretted that the minorities worship places come under attack and the government has to spend billions of rupees taxpayer’s money on rehabilitation of victims and properties. There is need for deeper introspection about the causes and circumstances involving these attacks.

Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash, a renowned educationist emphasised on the need to create a legal framework through which the community properties of minorities could be safeguarded. Humphrey Peters, the Bishop Diocese of Peshawar, Church of Pakistan and Bishop Leo Paul of Multan demanded the government protect the life, liberty and dignity of minorities which are the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan, particularly the protection of property under Article 24.

Albert David, a member of Minority Rights Commission stated that the properties belonging to the church all over Pakistan are situated at prime locations carrying huge worth whereas these places are communal asset and sacred trust. He demanded complete ban on sale of Christian or any communal properties.

The conference demanded the Senate halt amendment to the Protection of Communal Properties Act passed by the National Assembly on June 26, 2021, and consider a comprehensive legislation after proper assessment of the issue. The participants demanded the government ensure that communal properties transferred illegally, encroached upon or sold to anyone under the ETPB are restored and rehabilitated in their original shape and position and ensure that the Edwards College taken over by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government is returned to the Church administration.

Moreover, all educational institutions nationalised in 1972 are returned to the competent bodies, ensure implementation of the Supreme Court judgment of June 19, 2014 about protection of minorities’ rights, in letter and spirit, they added.