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Friday, 13 January 2012

Shelter and refuge for the old and infirm usurped by Punjab Government!

An institution ‘Gosha-e-Aman (a Strangers Home)’ situated at Allama Iqbal Road, Garhi Shahu – Lahore run by a board of Catholic Church and managed by CARITAS Pakistan, was demolished  on 10th Jan  2012.   The Government of Punjab has now established it's possession through police.

This institution is registered in the name of Lahore Charitable Association and was established in 1887. This is 2 acres land worth billions of rupees had a large compound that previously housed; a home for elderly people, a girls school, a convent and a Chapel (small Church).

The District Coordinating Officer (DCO is the highest civil servant of the district) was present to supervise the demolition with heavy mechanical apparatus and a  contingent of police. He ordered a couple of families residing there to move out of the building and started demolition. The DCO and other police officials on location claimed that the property had been transferred to the Punjab government.  

The Catholic Board have alleged that no document to support the claim was provided.  They are also claiming that no notice of eviction or transfer was served to the legal property holders (Lahore Charitable Association). Many copies of Bible and various religious artifacts were also destroyed during the demolition.

A press conference was called by the Catholic Church at Lahore press club in the afternoon addressed by Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf a Senior Catholic Priest.

He strongly condemned this act of the Punjab government and demanded that the possession of the property should be returned to its legal holders immediately.  He also demanded that compensation should be given for all losses.  Referring to previous incidents of aggression against religious minorities specifically with the Christian Community at Gojra, Shantinagar, he said that the government should stop jeopardizing the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan.

Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf displayed legal papers confirming ownership of  the property and  a stay order from the local  court.  He also showed papers for a pending case at Lahore High Court.  It was alleged by Father  Yousaf that a women who came for shelter in the institution, who later converted to Islam, was  claiming the proprietorship of the two rooms she occupied.

A protest rally to condemn the incident was held at 10:00 a.m on 11th January 2012, on location of the demolition site.    

Catholic TV have provided footage of the destruction:

If you are concerned about the situation faced by millions of Pakistani Christians please join our 10th March Protest:

1 comment:

  1. Pakistani Church in court to challenge the demolition of Catholic institute
    by Jibran Khan
    The director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace goes before the High Court with “full confidence in our legal system.” Provincial lawmaker says he will raise the issue in the Punjab Assembly. For some Catholics, it is not only a matter of demolition but also blasphemy and the destruction of sacred objects.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Pakistani Church has petitioned the High Court in Lahore against what it deems the illegal demolition on 10 January of the Gosh-e-Aman Institute by the Punjab provincial government. The ‘Place of Peace’ was open to Christians and Muslims.

    Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, is leading the challenge in court. “We have full confidence in our legal system,” he said. “We have filed the case for illegal demolishing of Gosh-e-Aman” and “are trying to do whatever we can for the displaced.”

    Provincial lawmaker Pervaiz Rafique said that he would raise the matter in the Punjab Assembly and demand government officials explain why they had Church property illegally demolished.

    Former residents of the facility are also fighting for the return of the property. Zenobia Richards, 61, is among them and she does not spare the local Catholic hierarchy from her criticism.

    In fact, “the Catholic Church has filed the petition only for illegal demolition, not for the desecration of the Church. This is unacceptable. I have filed a case at the Lahore High Court against the desecration of the Bible, Mary`s statue and the rosary.”

    She is fighting for her rights and blames provincial minister Kamran Michael, a Christian, whose role in the whole affair is suspicious.

    Established in 1887, the Gosh-e-Aman Institute stood on a 2-acre area now worth billions of rupees. It had senior citizens’ home, a girls’ school, a convent and a chapel.

    On orders of the provincial government, the structure was demolished on 10 January.

    The legal arguments over who owned the building and the land has been going on for some time; at least since a woman convert to Islam had sought shelter in the facility.

    An official with the Lahore Development Authority said the government owned the land that had been taken over by people involved with the land mafia, including the Christian woman convert to Islam, Agnus, who claimed she owned the land and had papers to prove it.

    However, all she did was live in a section of the building and when demolition began she fled without leaving any trace.