08/27/2019, 15.38
PAKISTAN
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Thirty Christian families threatened with expropriation by influential Muslim politicians in Faisalabad

by Shafique Khokhar

Christian live in a slum near a bus station in Pakki Mar. The price of land has risen and the Mehmood brothers, wealthy landowners, want to make money from development. The local Christian community has lived in the area for 125 years. Under Pakistani law, they are entitled to ownership after a hundred years.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – About 30 Christian families living in a slum near Pakki Mari, Faisalabad, are afraid of losing their homes following threats from two powerful Muslim politicians. The slum is also home to about 70 Muslim families, but they did not receive any pressure.

The two politicians are brothers, Rana Asad Mehmood and Rana Aizad Mehmood, wealthy landowners and members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

"The two brothers threaten to take our lands through their land grabbing henchmen,” said Maqbool Masih, a Christian slum resident, speaking to AsiaNews.

“Christians have lived in this area for 125 years. The area is owned by the federal government who assigned them this area, declaring it a shanty (Katchi Abadi) town for the poor.”

Now the politicians threaten serious consequences if residents do not leave their homes. The slum is in a central location, near Lari Adda, a bus station.

Residents note that the price of land has risen significantly in recent years, up to 1.2 million rupees (US$ 7,530) per marla (just over 25 square metres).

The two Muslims already own Mid Town, a new development near the slum. According to residents, their goal is to take the land and add it to the new area.

Minority Christian have protested against the brothers’ "petty tactics" to force them to give up, like blocking water supply and the sewer system, causing overflow of sewage and waste into the streets.

People are getting sick as a result of the unhealthiness of the place and it is difficult to walk around the area.

Christians are worried but stand firm on their decision not to leave, even it means going to court to assert their rights.

According to Yasir Talib, activist and coordinator at the Punjab Human Rights Ministry of, it is "absurd that only Christians are threatened. There are 100 families in the area: 70 Muslim and 30 Christian. The latter have lived there for 125 years.”

"The law states that after 100 years the land becomes the property of those who live there. Hence, the Christian community has the right to live in this area with the same dignity with which it has made this city worth living in, i.e. with sweat and blood."

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