Filed Under ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS
PML-Q MPA Shahzad Elahi, from Begumpura, passionately took to the floor of the Punjab Assembly on Friday. The Christian MPA was incensed at the government’s insensitivity in encroaching on lands belonging to churches.
In recent months, he said, the government had taken over and sealed off four churches in Lahore, forcibly evicting the tenants.
Gosha-i-Amn in Garhi Shahu had been in the possession of the Catholic church of Pakistan since 1887, Elahi said. On January 10, the police and district administration ordered the tenants, including chapel staff, an elderly home residents and the staff of a convent school, to leave.
According to Elahi, and some Christian organisations in the city, the government wanted to establish a trust on that property in the name of Kulsoom Nawaz, wife of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
The speaker did not seem impressed by the MPA’s passionate speech and turned off his microphone. He told Elahi to bring in something written (a call attention notice, an adjournment motion or a resolution). Elahi retorted that he had tried all options but the assembly secretariat had not included any on the agenda. The speaker was not swayed and the microphone was not switched on.
Elahi, however, was determined to get his point across. He reminded the house of what the white strip on the national flag stood for and recalled Jinnah’s August 11 speech. He said besides Gosha-i-Amn, the government had decided to auction off a church property in Garden Town claiming that it was illegal construction on government land. Elahi also said more than a kanal of United Christian Hospital land had been acquired to build a market and a parking plaza. He also brought up the case of the Mission School in Rang Mahal which he said had not been handed over to the Presbyterian Education Trust.
PML-N MPA Joel Amir Sahotra endorsed Elahi’s protest but denied that the government had plans to auction off the property in Garden Town.
That the incumbent chief minister is not a fan of minority issues is no secret. The allegations of land grab by the government should not be ignored. The space for minorities in the country is clearly shrinking. The country was attained by a religious minority (Muslims) from a Hindu majority so they could have their own space. It is ironic that 65 years on, another religious minority is demanding that it be given space to breathe. Rights were denied 32 years ago to an ethnic minority in the name of nationalism and we are well aware of the fall out.