05/04/2021, 16.43
PAKISTAN
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A rich landowner grabs land from a Christian farmer in Punjab

by Shafique Khokhar

The Christian owner of the land “went to the Muslim tenant to inform him that the lease was about to expire”. At his request, “I handed him the rental documents. He became enraged and tore them up, claiming to have bought the land from my father.”

Khanewal (AsiaNews) – Arshad Mughal, an influential Muslim, took by force the land of a poor Christian farmer, Victor Masih (pictured), in 33/16.L, a village near Mian Chunu, Khanewal district.

“My father, Boota Masih, rented out this land (six and a half acres) in 2012 until April 2021,” said Victor, 65. “We were in Karachi. I ran a small business while my wife worked in the hospital as a nurse. I asked my father to come to Karachi, but he wasn't ready to move from the village. So my wife and I decided to come to the village for my father's sake. My father died in 2016.”

Yesterday, after the wheat harvest and the end of the lease, “I went to the Muslim tenant to inform him that the lease was about to expire and that he had to leave my land by the end of the month,” Victor explained.

“At his request, I handed him the rental documents. He became enraged and tore them up. He claimed to have bought the land from my father. then showed me copies of the fake papers showing that my father had sold him the land. He warned me that he would kill me if I set foot on my land which he claimed was his,” Victor added.

“My wife Suryia, 66, and I were hoping to take back our land this year and start growing, but now we are desperate and upset,” Victor told AsiaNews. The couple, who have a son, now have no means and will go hungry.

Victor is a professional welder, but his eyes were badly damaged and the doctor advised him not to weld again. Suyria could provide medical service from home, but she does not have enough funds to open a small study.

“I sold a quarter of my house to cover the expense of my wife's operation last year,” Victor explained. Now “I cannot afford a long court case. I know I'm a Christian and I should persevere like others. We ask the government to help us so that we can get back our land and start farming for our survival.”

For Kamran, a local activist, there is “a pattern in Christian villages. Wealthy Muslim owners rent  land and then claim it was sold to them. They are influential enough to be able the get their hands on fake documents.

“Conversely, Christians are poor and have no funds to meet legal costs that usually take decades. They accept it as a bitter reality. This family has no source of income and is going through very difficult times.

“The landlord killed their last hope for survival. We need to raise our voices for this poor family and draw the attention of government officials to this issue.”

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