A Rawalpindi additional and session court issued on Monday a notice to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and summoned its deputy administrator after Awami Muslim League Sheikh Rashid filed an appeal to temporarily refrain the department from dispossessing him of a property adjacent to his Lal Haveli residence.
The department had issued a notice to Rashid earlier, directing him to vacate the land and rooms adjacent to his Lal Haveli residence within seven days.
In its notice to Rashid, the ETPB said the AML chief and his brother, Sheikh Sadeeq, had lost the “legal possession” of the property as they had neither responded to the authority’s earlier notice nor paid the arrears of rent.
The ETPB administration also warned that it would use the police force to get the property vacated in case of non-compliance within seven days.
Rashid and Sadeeq filed a petition against the orders today, following which his nephew, Sheikh Shafique, and lawyer, Sardar Abdul Razzaq, appeared before Additional District and Sessions Judge Khursheed Alam Bhatti.
During the hearing, Razzaq told the court that proceedings on the “main case” in the matter were also under way in court and the next hearing for it was scheduled for October 24.
He argued that evacuation orders served to Rashid were an act of “political revenge”.
“The Evacuee Trust Property Board, under political pressure wants to launch an attack on Lal Haveli through police.”
The lawyer contended that Lal Haveli was Rashid’s personal property.
Following his arguments, the court issued a notice to the ETPB and summoned its deputy administrator tomorrow (Tuesday).
Earlier, Rashid said in a tweet that when “all the departments failed to find anything against him after probing 16 ministries, they have come up with three-marla Lal Haveli.
“Lal Haveli is not nine-zero … Lal Haveli is history that no one can erase.”
In his petition, Sadeeq contended that a petition on the matter had already been filed earlier and notice issued to the respondent, the zonal administrator, for a temporary injunction — a court order that prohibits an action by a party to a lawsuit until there was a trial or other court action.
“It is settled law that when the matter is subjudice in the court of law and notice on stay application is issued to a public functionary, he is bound to show regard to the proceedings of the court and maintain status quo till the decision of application for a temporary injunction,” the plea read.
The plea stated that the respondent was “under immense political pressure” as Rashid was a political opponent of the present regime.
“The government authorities, on the basis of political considerations, are putting pressure upon the respondent to adopt coercive measures against the appellants,” the plea said, adding that as the administrator had “initiated coercive measures for the eviction of the petitioners” despite the pendency of an instant appeal filed earlier.
The petitioners maintained that the requirement of the notice by the ETPB, though not mandatory, had already been fulfilled and hence, interim relief be provided to them by restraining the ETPB from dispossessing them from the property or adopting any coercive measures against them till the final disposal of the main appeal.
“If the interim relief is not granted, the appeal which has already been admitted for regular hearing would become infructuous and the petitioners would suffer an irreparable loss”.
Lal Haveli is Rashid’s political office.
It’s an old building located in Rawalpindi’s Bohar Bazaar. The building was the property of a Hindu woman before the partition but was converted into a political office in 1980 after Rashid entered parliamentary politics.
Earlier, an ETPB senior official told Dawn that the latest notice had been issued to vacate the land adjacent to Lal Haveli, which he said was illegally occupied by the former federal minister.
Seven units adjacent to Lal Haveli were on lease to seven different tenants, but Rashid used it as part of his Lal Haveli residence, he alleged.
The official claimed a 140 square feet room was being used as the kitchen of Lal Haveli and an area measuring nine metres and 84 square feet was being used as rooms for security guards of the former federal minister.
The ETPB had given this property to Wilayat Jan, widow of Ayub Shah, he added.
The official said that as per the law, the tenants had no authority to sub-let the leased property or change the original structure. The ETPB took the action on the violation, he added.
On the other hand, Shafique maintained while speaking to Dawn that there was no issue with the five-marla Lal Haveli as it was registered in the name of Rashid’s younger brother, Sadeeq. “However, there was an issue with seven units adjacent to Lal Haveli and a temple on which the ETPB had in 2012 given a verdict in our favour,” he claimed.
Shafique said the ETPB had cancelled the lease agreement and Sheikh Rashid contacted the board to give him that property on lease and the case had been decided in 2019.
He said the property was not part of Lal Haveli but adjacent to it. However, he said, the possession of the property had been with the former interior minister since 1993. “We were ready to pay one year’s dues, but the ETPB was using delaying tactics and reopened the case after 10 years,” he claimed.
He said the case was pending with the district and sessions court and the notice to vacate the land was unjustified and a violation of court orders.