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SAHIWAL: Around 100,000 residents of 12 localities, who own 14,394 kanals in the Pakpattan city, have appealed to the Supreme Court to revise its suo motu decision under which it declared the Revenue Department’s notification of Aug 28, 1986 illegal on March 25, 2015.

Up to 20,000 houses and 1,000 shops have been built on the land of the Baba Farid shrine in the last 60 years time to time. Residents say they bought land from the Dewans of Pakpattan, the caretakers of the shrine, under an Punjab Revenue Department agreement signed in 1986, which the court declared illegal in 2015 and barred them from further selling or transferring of their property without the permission of the Auqaf Department.

Residents say they bought land from the Dewans after Partition through the Revenue Department since Partition and have been issued ownership deeds called ‘Farad’.

Before Partition, 14,394 kanals in the Pakpattan urban localities, was transferred to the shrine and the caretaker was to be its owner.

After Partition, Dewan Ghulam Qutab and his family used to be the owner of the shrine’s land as per the revenue record from 1947 to 1958. The family sold the land to different people time to time until Jan 1, 1970 when the Punjab government notified the Auqaf Department as the rightful owner of the land and Dewans the custodian. The Dewans moved the court and the Lahore High Court decided against Dewans.

In 1986, the government withdrew its 1970 notification and the Dewans reciprocated by withdrawing their appeal from the Lahore High Court against the decision.

With this, the Dewans resumed their land selling business and the Revenue Department issued ownership rights (farad) to all buyers.

Where there is land, there is always litigation. In 1981, a case regarding 17 marlas landed in a civil court and by 2015, when it reached the Supreme Court, the chief justice took suo moto of the land deals of the shrine and called the officials of revenue and auqaf departments and the Dewans to the court. After a few hearings, the Supreme Court declared notification of the Aug 28, 1986 illegal and nullified all land deals done since then.

The decision affected 100,000 residents of the localities.

It is learnt the Dewans have filed a review petition with the Supreme Court against its 2015 decision.

Now, local civil society body Citizen Rights and Welfare Organization (CRWO) has also started mobilising the residents who have been hit hard by the court decision.

CRWO President Awais Abid told Dawn that they had conducted a gathering of the residents at neighbourhood Jhajrainwala on Jan 26 despite pressure from the local administration and police.

He said 100,000 poor residents who had bought land from the Dewans through the Revenue Department, had paid property taxes and land transfer charges and had got their houses’ maps approved from the local municipal committee. “The residents have been paying utility bills for the last 67 years,” he added.

Residents have computerised identity cards with permanent addresses of the localities under question.

CRWO secretary Rana Haji Ali Sher told Dawn the residential, commercial and agriculture properties bought from the Dewans were now part of government schedule.

Dawn learnt these neighbourhoods of the Pakpattan city would feel the heat of the Supreme Court decision: Jhajrainwala, Sufiabad, Gulzara-i-Abad, Hasanpura, Gulshan Farid Colony, Ayub Sadiq Housing, Islam Colony, Pir Sultan, Pir Kot, Mohalla Basharat, Mohalla Syed Jalala, Mohalla Sayadabad, Medina Chowk, Shaheedi Bazaar Portion and Samdainwala.

“How can we be made responsible for a fault done by government institutions?” said Rana Aurangzeb Alamgir, a resident of the locality.

Residents demanded they be given ownership rights so that they could trade their properties.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2018