LAHORE Sep 24,2021 – As properties belonging minorities are being subjected to illegal occupation, transfers etc., while some policy measures, legislation and litigations are in process, the 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 Center for Social Justice was joined by human right experts, senior Minorities religious leadership, lawyers, and in person and online.
The conference through a resolution urged the Senate of Pakistan to halt amendment to the Protection of Communal Properties Act passed by the National Assembly on 26th June 2021, return the same National Assembly and consider a comprehensive legislation, after proper assessment of the issue and the possible resolve to illegal and unethical use, transfer or sale of communal properties.
Through another resolution the conference urged the Federal and provincial governments to ensure that communal properties under the Evacuee Trust Property Board illegally transferred, encroached upon or sold to anyone are restored and rehabilitated in their original shape and position.
The participants pointed out to address the social and religious intolerance, hate speech against minority religions appears to be the chief cause, often instrumentalized by land grabbers, urgently.
The moot demanded to transfer the management and leadership of the ETPB and Gurdwaras and Hindu temples and other communal properties to the Sikh and Hindu communities.
It was further demanded that the Edwards Colleague taken over by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is returned to the Church administration, moreover, all educational institutional nationalized institutions in 1972 are returned to the competent bodies.
The conference empahsised to ensure implementation of the Supreme Court judgment of 19 June 2014 about protection of minorities’ rights, in letter and spirit particularly directive number five with regards to protection of minorities worship places.
A press release issued on conclusion of conference said, in March 2021, in the backdrop of complaints, the Supreme Court of Pakistan directed a forensic audit of the communal properties managed by the Evacuee Trust Property Board that originally belonged to Hindus and Sikh communities. The Supreme Court 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 26 June 2021 seeking to amend the Protection of Communal Properties Act 2001, which is under process in the Senate of Pakistan.
The Christian activists are skeptical that the proposed amendments will open doors for fraudulent sale and purchase of Christian communal properties. Hence the Christians will be deprived of valuable assets, history and legacy associated with these institutions.
The key speakers included Peter Jacob, Director Centre for Social Justice, Dr. Yaqoob Khan Bangash, a well-known historian and educationist, Humphrey Peters, the Bishop of Peshawar discoes, Church of Pakistan and Bishop Leo Paul of Multan, Albert David, a member of Minority Rights Commission.