RAWALPINDI: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) to de-seal seven units of Lal Haveli which were sealed by a team led by the board’s deputy administrator on Monday morning.
The court, while disposing of a petition filed by former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, ordered the board to settle matters of the property’s ownership within 15 days and also chided the ETPB for its ambiguous stance pertaining to the issue.
Justice Mirza Waqas Rauf presided over the hearing as EPTB Administrator Tanveer Khan appeared before the court with the relevant records. He claimed that only seven units of the building were sealed, not the entire building. Mr Ahmed contested the claim and presented a photograph of the “sealed residence” to the court.
Earlier in the day, an ETPB team led by Deputy Administrator Asif Khan sealed the seven units allotted to different people. The team, however, did not close the stairwell leading to the first floor of the building.
Sheikh Rashid, an ally of Imran Khan, claimed that Lal Haveli was sealed as part of “political revenge” by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government. He claimed that he had owned the haveli since the early 80s and he had legal documents to prove his ownership.
Building de-sealed after Rashid moved LHC against ETPB’s move to seal its seven units
However, ETPB Rawalpindi Deputy Administrator Asif Khan told Dawn that the total area of Lal Haveli was more than 16 marlas and that Sheikh Rashid owned a five-marla portion of the building on its upper floor. He said seven units adjacent to Lal Haveli were leased to different tenants, but Sheikh Rashid used them as part of his Lal Haveli.
He said the 140 square feet room was being used as kitchen and the area measuring nine metres and 84 square feet was being used as rooms for security guards employed by the former federal minister. However, he said the ETPB had given this property to Wilayat Jan.
He said as per law, the tenants had no authority to sub-let the property nor can they change the original structure of the property and added that action against Mr Ahmed was taken in light of this violation.
He said several notices were sent to Sheikh Rashid for over the past three months and a civil court also rejected his plea. Subsequently, the ETPB action to retrieve the property from “illegal occupation”.
Sheikh Rashid’s presser
In a press conference following the ETPB action, the former interior minister warned that he would block Murree Road if the haveli was not de-sealed. In the meantime, he moved the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench.
“I was told that my ownership of Lal Haveli was of 3.5 marlas instead of four marlas. But, they are lying. If they attempt to touch Lal Haveli, I will give a call to block Murree Road,” he said.
Later, the former minister tweeted that he did not receive a notice prior to the ETPB’s move to seal the units of the building and went on to term it “fascism”.
“If it is proven that Lal Haveli is not our personal property, we should be declared national criminals,” Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said, claiming that the government took this step after it failed to find anything against him in 16 ministries where he served in the last three decades. He added that the case pertaining to the ownership of Lal Haveli was fixed for hearing on February 15 in the ETPB.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2023