Panchayat accused of delaying construction on H-9 plot in Islamabad

Published November 21, 2021
The plot in H-9 allotted for establishing a cremation ground for Islamabad’s Hindu community. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
The plot in H-9 allotted for establishing a cremation ground for Islamabad’s Hindu community. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

• Pakistan Hindu Council chief says Panchayat wasting time of whole community
• CDA backtracks from plot cancellation statement after backlash on social media

ISLAMABAD: After outcry on social media on the cancellation of a plot meant for the Hindu cremation ground and community centre, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) revised its statement in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), saying only those plots had been cancelled which were lying idle and that construction work was underway on the land allotted to the Hindu community.

On the other hand, the Islamabad Hindu Panchayat (IHP) has failed to build a boundary wall around the H-9 cremation ground even though the CDA issued permission for it almost a year ago.

Earlier, the CDA had told the IHC that the federal cabinet had cancelled all amenity plots where no construction work had commenced and it also included the plot allotted to the Hindu community.

However, a few hours later, following public outcry on social media, the CDA changed its stance and issued a statement denying that the plot had been cancelled.

It told the IHC that development activity was actually taking place on the 3.89 kanals of land for the community centre and cremation ground in H-9/2, and that the plot was not cancelled.

The Panchayat, meanwhile, has still not started building a wall, saying it was trying to arrange about Rs500,000 for the construction activity.

For this, a delegation of the Panchayat recently approached Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on CDA Affairs MNA Ali Nawaz Awan with a request that the civic body be asked to build the boundary wall on its own. Mr Awan assured the delegation of his cooperation.

Talking to Dawn, former IHP president Pritum Das said the community was short of finances and could not afford the construction cost, hoping the CDA would step in and carry out the construction.

But prominent member of the Hindu community Dr Ramesh Vankwani, who is an MNA and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), said the Panchayat was wasting time of the community.

“I have asked them to hand over the case of the cremation ground to the Hindu Council,” Dr Vankwani said, adding, “we will not only build the boundary wall but also get the design of the building prepared from an architect”.

Senior officials of the Hindu Panchayat had even turned down a request for a meeting from the commissioner, who is also the CDA chairman, an official from the civic authority claimed.

“The meeting with the officials will be decided by the Panchayat as we need to finalise the contents before the meeting with the CDA and Islamabad administration,” IHP President Muhesh Chaudhry said, after almost one week after the request for the meeting was forwarded to the Panchayat.

National Commission for Minorities Chairman Chela Ram Chairman said: “It (IHP) never tried to get in touch with the commission nor did they respond to any of our attempts to hold a meeting.”

The plot for the cremation ground was allotted to the IHP by the PML-N government in 2017 and handed over to the community in 2018.

In 2020, they tried to build the boundary wall, but work was interrupted by local clerics who even approached the IHC seeking cancellation of the plot.

The court referred the matter to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) which decided that a crematorium was the right of the Hindu community.

The IHC later directed the CDA to grant NOC to the Hindu Panchayat to build the boundary wall and allow construction of the main structure after the building map was approved.

Incidentally, due to a lacklustre attitude of the Panchayat, permission was first issued in the name of a Muslim activist who had been pursuing the case in December 2020, but later it was corrected and re-issued in the name of Pritum Das.

PML-N MNA and a member of the Parliamentary Committee against Forced Conversion Kesoo Mal Kheeal Das said the members of the Islamabad Panchayat were only interested in social media activism.

“I tried to meet them but they never responded back,” he said.

According to the Panchayat, there are around 300 Hindu families living in Islamabad, most of them had migrated to the city in the last decade.

They belong to diversified professions, some having shops in various sectors while others were doctors and in government and private service.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2021

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