04/08/2024, 18.06
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Christian families take to the street in Akbarabad against Raja Riaz who wants to evict them

by Shafique Khokhar

The influential opposition politician wants to evict more than 60 families despite receiving regular payment. By legal manoeuvring, he managed to get an eviction notice from the Supreme Court and does not intend to return the money he received. An appeal has been made to the chief minister of Punjab and the prime minister of Pakistan.


Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Dozens of Christian families in Akbarabad, Faisalabad district (Punjab) have started a protest (pictured) against Raja Riaz, an influential politician and former opposition leader, who wants to expel them from their homes following a Supreme Court ruling.

The dispute concerns more than 60 households who have lived in the settlement since 1960, located on land that was thought to be government owned; however, the influential politician was able to prove that the area belonged to his ancestors and thus gained title to the land as a result of the legal dispute.

In order not to lose their homes, Christian families reached an agreement with him, and were allowed to stay upon payment – a sort of rent – of a sum of money.

The contract included the payment of 750,00 rupees (US$ 2,700) per marla (about 25 square metres), with regular receipts as proof of payment. Some families have paid as much as US$ 57.6450 to avoid eviction, agreeing to pay off the remaining amount in the contract.

However, the politician seems to have changed his mind, claiming that agreement was null and void while keeping the money he received, and now wants everyone off the land. Shahzad Joseph, one of the residents of Akbarabad, talked to AsiaNews about the latest developments.

“We had an agreement with Raja Riaz, signed in the vehicle showroom he owns. We have already paid a large sum of money, and we have the receipts for the payment,” he explained.

Nevertheless, the politician secretly got a court to issue an eviction order and "now the Supreme Court has ruled that the land does belong to him and that he can have the Christians vacate the settlement.”

As a result, at least 25 families could soon be evicted from their homes despite paying the agreed rent, while police are already threatening to move them out.

“We are all daily labourers,” Shahzad Joseph added. “We can barely make ends meet, doing our best to pay the instalments on time. Yet we are still facing threats.”

After an Easter of grief and tensions, the families are now appealing for justice to the chief minister of Punjab and the prime minister of Pakistan.

Shahid Anwar, a lawyer and coordinator of the Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission, told AsiaNews that it is “very sad" that Christians in Akbarabad “are being mistreated after the two sides had reached a compromise."

There is no doubt that "this land belongs to Raja Riaz, but if he is taking money from them, he should grant them the right to use it,” Anwar said.

“I call on the government to investigate the matter fairly, because Christians have receipts for the payment of instalments. I call on Senator and Minister of Human Rights Khalil Tahir Sandhu to consider the case and help the Christian community, which is very worried these days."

"We are very poor, we can't build a new house, we have elderly parents and children, we can't go anywhere else, and start our lives again,” said a Christian man in a desperate plea.

“We barely feed our families. How can we provide shelter to our children on very low incomes? Please, help us,” he added.

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