PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Monday issued a stay order to stop the Evacuee Trust Properties Department from making any changes to or dismantling some ancient structures, including three Hindu temples and a gurdwara, at Kashmir Camp in Sarafa Bazzar in the provincial capital.

Justice Nisar Hussain and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth directed the federal religious affairs and interfaith harmony ministry, evacuee trust board and provincial home department to file comments about a petition filed by senior lawyer Muazzam Butt against the alleged plan of demolition of some old structures in Kashmir Camp by an individual in alleged connivance with the evacuee trust properties department.

The bench fixed July 28 for next hearing asking the provincial government and Evacuee Trust Properties Department to ensure that neither changes are made to the said properties nor are they demolished.

Advocate Muazzam Butt requested the high court to declare all the agreements, if any, made by the Evacuee Trust Properties department with an individual Ikram Shinwari as illegal and unlawful and the trust department may be restrained from dispossessing the Kashmiri families residing at Kashmir Camp/ Kashmiri Mohallah and from causing any destruction of three temples and a gurdwara situated there.

Mr. Butt said Camp No 987 was an area of about 32 marlas wherein three temples and a gurdwara were situated. He pointed out that under the Antiquity Act, 1975, as well as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Antiquity Act, 2016, most of the structures including the temples qualified the definition of an antiquity and should not be dismantled. He added that while the district administration had few days ago sealed the temples, the other structures also need protection.

The lawyer said consequent to the Partition of India, the Muslims of Jammu and Punch were killed in a huge number and the survivors succeeded in migration were absorbed in different areas of Pakistan including the then North West Frontier Province now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in camp no. 987.

He said some survivors from Punch and Jammu were settled and they maintained their residence in the camp since thereafter as refugees from Kashmir and this camp no. 987 was named as Kashmiri Camp. He added that presently there are about 13 houses of Kashmiri refugees situated at Kashmir Camp.

The lawyer said the said Kashmiri Camp is an Evacuee trust property and Kashmiris were settled in it on permanent basis.

The petitioner alleged that the department had reached an understanding with a resident of Landi Kotal Ikram Shinwari, who intended to construct a commercial plaza on Kashmir Camp. He added that the said individual had approached the residents and they were paid money for vacating their residences.

The respondents in the petition are administrator of the Evacuee Trust Properties Peshawar Mohammad Asif, federal government through interior secretary and religious affairs and interfaith harmony ministry, the provincial government through home secretary, MPAs elected on reserved seats for non-Muslims Askar Pervez and Frederick Azeem, nazim Ander Sher neighbourhood council Sher Farzand, Landi Kotal resident Ikram Shinwari, DSP and SHO of Khan Raziq Shaheed police station, and Peshawar SSP.

The petitioner said the said property could only be used for empowerment and development of the Kashmir community and that if that didn’t happen, it was to be returned to Hindu and Sikh communities as temples and gurdwaras and the connected land therewith was their property.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2016

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