LAHORE: The issue of Rawalpindi’s Lal Haveli that former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed claims to own took a new turn on Sunday after the Evacuee Trust Property Board headquarters found out that the ownership documents of one of its eight units are fake.

In the record books, the property is owned by the trust.

“Previously, we were of the view that the registry of a 3.5-marla unit (out of the eight) as claimed by Mr Ahmed may be genuine. But when we probed into it, it was revealed that the legal owner of unit No D-158 is the ETPB. This is the same property against which Sheikh Rashid’s brother moved an application in 1995 with the ETPB for renting it out to him under the law,” a senior official explained while talking to Dawn on Sunday.

“The registry is in the name of Mr Ahmed’s brother. We have asked the revenue department to provide further details,” he added.

He said the remaining seven units of the compound were earlier being used by some tenants until 2006. But, after Mr Ahmed became a minister in 2006, he allegedly claimed possession of all of them forcibly by threatening and kicking out the tenants. He further said the applications of the former minister’s brother regarding allotment of unit No D-158 on rent were rejected several times.

Finds documents of one unit fake; ex-minister claims dispute only over 100sq-ft area

“It is very clear in the ETPB laws that the trust property can neither be sold nor transferred to anyone. However, it can be given on rent in a bid to earn revenue that is then used to look after the temples, worship places of Sikh and Hindu community and organising various religious and cultural events that are also attended by pilgrims from various parts of the country, India and other countries,” he said.

According to another official in the ETPB, although the Awami Muslim League chief claims ownership of the haveli, he has never said who he or his brother purchased it from. That proved he had no trail of the property he claimed to own.

“Once he also managed to get a stay order from a civil court. Under the law, such matters are supposed to be taken up and decided by administrators and deputy administrators of the ETPB, who have judicial powers, not a civil court. Later, the stay order was also vacated when we apprised the court of its powers,” he explained. “Only high courts have the power to hear ETPB-related matters.”

When contacted, Sheikh Rashid rejected the ETPB’s claims, saying the dispute was only limited to the trust property measuring 100 square feet on which a kitchen was built.

“It is a 10x10 room where we have built a kitchen. The dispute between the ETPB and us is only related to this small piece of land,” he claimed. He further said he owned only four marlas of Lal Haveli and had declared it in his income tax return in 1968.

The former minister criticised the trust authorities for attempting to evict him. He added that besides him, 15 other people also lived there for a long time. “But I only have four marlas. And we own them lawfully,” he claimed.

According to him, the dispute had been revived 16 times. “We have shown them all the documents every time, but they always try to create a dispute in a bid to lock Lal Haveli,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2023

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