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Christians’ graveyard land encroached by a Muslim man

By Sheraz Khurram Khan
8/2/08 JOHARABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) – The Christian residents of Joharabad are facing problems in burying their dead in the Christian graveyard due to the opposition of a Muslim man, who has allegedly constructed his house on the graveyard land, ANS has learnt.

The Christian residents of Joharabad told ANS that Christians from some 14 colonies have been burying their dead for last forty eight years.

Munawar Khan, a Christian resident of Joharabad told ANS that tension began a couple of months ago when Mazher Qureshi, a Muslim councilor put up stiff opposition when the Christians went to the graveyard to bury the dead body of Lal Masih. The local Christians protested against the high-handedness of Qureshi, prompting police to come to the scene of incident, said Munawar.

Khan told ANS that the local Christians told Qureshi in categorical terms that they would only rest after they had buried Lal Masih’s body.

The Police let Christians bury Lal Masih’s body in the disputed graveyard. The local Christians approached the District Coordination Officer (DCO) and moved an application for demarcation of the graveyard.

The DCO directed the housing department to do demarcation of the graveyard. According to the demarcation carried out by the housing department it was proved that Qureshi had encroached on 6400 ft square piece of land of the graveyard.

The Christian residents of Joharabad including William Masih Ghouri, Mumtaz Gill, Dildar and Saleem told ANS that a wall had separated Christian and Muslim graveyard. They alleged that Mazher Qurehsi violated the boundary wall of the graveyard and started burying their dead in the area allocated for Christian graveyard. They also termed the road as illegal that passes through the graveyard.

They alleged that that Muslims desecrated crosses and slabs inscribed with the names of the deceased as well as biblical verses.

Pointing to yet another intrusion into the graveyard, they alleged that Muslim boys have transformed a sizable part of the graveyard into a play ground.

Cattle were seen grazing in the graveyard. Mushtaq Ahmad, 35, a Muslim resident of the area, who resides near the controversial graveyard told ANS that the Christians had been burying their dead in the graveyard for several decades. He disclosed that dead bodies of the Christians lay buried in the land which is currently being used as a graveyard.

Talking to ANS, Mazher Qureshi said that the land being used as a graveyard by Christians was never allotted to them for the purpose of graveyard. He alleged that the Christians were given land for the purpose of graveyard in some other area which he said had been sold by Christians.

He said Christians were giving a religious tinge to the issue. Denying charges of desecration of crosses made on the graves, he said he could never think of desecrating crosses.

When ANS asked him why he did not register his reservation during over forty years, he said he started worrying when Christians started expanding the graveyard.

Tehsildar (head of administrative division) is currently conducting the inquiry. He is going to hear the two sides on August 3.
The Christians residents said if their demand was not heeded by the concerned authorities they would stage protest demonstration.

The Chief Coordinator of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, Sohail Johnson, who had accompanied ANS encouraged the Christians to stand up for their rights. Talking to ANS, he said that this is from among scores of incidents in which Christians are being deprived from their rights. Expressing his support to the local Christians Sohail said that they should not find themselves alone in this fight. “The SLMP would do all it can to ensure that the Christians could continue using the graveyard without any interference or hurdle,” he said.