Disputed Land: Yes For Eidgah, But No For Church On Community Land

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A group of local Muslims demolished an under construction church in Chak 3/4-L, Okara, supposedly over political rivalry,

The Christians of Chak 3/4-L, Okara, started the construction of a church on, what they declared was their own land. They had straight a wall and installed a cross on it and carved some Biblical verses.

 

Around 20 Muslim people demolished the church using a tractor. They pulled down the cross and ploughed the land.

 

Javed Iqbal Masih, a resident of the area, said that the Christians had strived to convince the group, supported by Pakistan Peoples Party’s Mehar Abdul Sattar, not to dishonor the cross and get in the way with the construction of the Church but they did not paid attention.

 

Iqbal said this was Sattar’s way of punishing the Christian community for not voting for him in the May 2013 elections and preferring a Pakistan Muslim League-N candidate over him. He said two months ago, Sattar had also tried to stop them from constructing churches in Chak 4/4 and Chak 12/4 as well.

 

He said several Muslims neighbors had accompanied Christians to the police station to register an FIR against Sattar. He said Minister for Irrigation Mian Yawar Zaman had interfered and helped them register an FIR against the goons. However no one had been taken in custody so far.

 

Ibrar Ahmed, an investigation officer at Okara Saddar police station, said that they had registered an FIR under Section 295-A (insulting someone’s religion or religious beliefs) and 506-B (death threats) against 21 people, 11 of them nominated. He said they were conducting raids to arrest them however both parties were also trying to reconcile their differences.

Sattar told said that he name was not in the FIR nor was he behind the incident. He defended the group’s actions, however, claiming that they did nothing immoral by stopping the construction. He said the Christians had tried to construct the church on disputed land and the group of Muslims had reacted in a manner that was within their rights. He said although the piece of land (2 kanals) was surrounded by land owned by a Christian, the land where construction was undertaken was not his. He said all the residents of Chak 3/4 had a stake in the land.

 

Sattar said the Muslims had also built an Eid Gah on another piece of disputed land so that no one could claim ownership to it.

 

When asked why the Muslims could build an Eid Gah on community land but Christians couldn’t, Sattar said, they could build a community centre if they wished, but could not construct a church.

 

He admitted that electoral politics had been a factor. He said he had run against a PML-N candidate, “police have registered the FIR on his behalf”.

 

He said some elements were trying to paint the “non-issue” as a religious dispute for political point scoring.