PESHAWAR, Dec 19: A Peshawar High Court bench on Wednesday took notice of the construction of government facilities, including schools and tube wells, in graveyards and directed the provincial government to provide alternative land for graveyards across the province otherwise demolition of these structures would be ordered.

During the hearing into scores of petitions on the matter, Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth issued directives to the chief secretary to acquire land equal to the encroached area for graveyards, saying the exercise should begin within seven days and be completed within two months.

They also issued a show cause notice to the chief administrator of the Auqaf department directing him to appear in person and explain why he and other officials of his department had not been taking interest in the issue.

The notice was issued after district officer revenue (DOR) of Peshawar Masood Shah complained that they had retrieved a vast land of graveyards from encroachers but they again constructed structures over it.

Mr Shah said the Auqaf department had not been taking interest in the retrieved land.

An official of the Auqaf department said the department had been following official mechanism for purchasing construction material for the construction of boundary walls around graveyards in the province.

The bench directed the Auqaf department to do away with the procedural technicalities and build walls around graveyards at the earliest.

It also issued directions for the appointment of caretakers to graveyards and observed that the Auqaf department should take control of graveyards in district and tehsil headquarters within seven days so that they could be held responsible for encroachments there.

The DOR said land measuring around 71 kanals of land in Tehkal Payan area was occupied by Afghan refugees and had constructed houses there.

The bench directed the DOR to ensure the removal of those encroachments after contacting the Commissionerate of Afghan Refugees, which should extend proper assistance to the DOR.

An official of the Peshawar Cantonment Board told the court that the administration had removed encroachments from 153 marlas of land in a graveyard but a government primary school and a mosque were also constructed over there.

The bench observed that the said structures were illegal as under no law, the Auqaf land could be used for such purpose.

It observed that the government should purchase alternate land for the graveyard otherwise these structures should be demolished.

The DOR of Karak informed the bench that in his district, around 40 kanals of land was occupied by encroachers, who had built houses there.

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