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Heritage Neglected Heritage: Entangled In Legal Wrangle Over Ownership Of Building


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Neglected heritage: Entangled in legal wrangle over ownership of building

Legal wrangling over ownership of a government school in Raja Bazaar have intensifies as a trade organisation files a civil suit against the Punjab Education Department.

Anjum and Company has filed a complaint in a civil court that the Punjab Education Department has started renovation work at the Government Boys High School, which is being run in an old and dilapidated Gurdwara (worship place for Sikhs). The plaintiff contended that the building is owned by the Evacuee Trust Properties Board (ETPB), with whom they has entered into a contract in 2003 to construct a commercial plaza at the site, at a cost of Rs31million. The company claims it has already paid Rs620,000 to ETPB for construction of the plaza and demanded that construction work at the building be stopped immediately.

The plaintiff added that once the plaza is constructed, the first two floors will be used for commercial purpose while the third floor will be handed over to the school.

The court of Civil Judge Nadya Khan has asked the ETPB, education department and the school management to respond to the suit.

Over 300 students are enrolled in the Gurdhwara building serving as the government boys high school in the busy Raja Bazaar. The school management recently acquired a grant of Rs5.5 million from the area Member National Assembly Shakeel Awan to rebuild the frail roof of the mail hall of the school for safety of the students.

The Gurdhwara, last renovated in 1927 by Sikhs of the area, remained occupied by a special branch of the Rawalpindi police till a local, Abdul Majeed, established a private school in the building in 1965. As most religious sites acquired after partition, the Gurdhwara building that spread over 52 marla, was under ownership of the ETPB. However, the school was nationalised in 1972 and its property was transferred to the Punjab education department, the school management claimed.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior teacher of the school said that ETPB “maliciously” tried to take control of the building in 1996 and the sealed it when the school was closed during the summer. ETPB officials claimed that the building was never handed over to the education department during the 1972 nationalisation of private schools, the teacher informed. However, the issue was timely resolved after intervention of the Lahore High court Rawalpindi bench and Punjab education department.

The school management in 2008 took up the issue of construction of a commercial plaza in the Gurdwara building with the Lahore High court Rawalpindi bench, which permitted the school to continue operating in the building and maintained that the school building can be transferred in the name of the education department upon request.

The school management claims that though the education department had not asked for transfer of the property, there is enough evidence to show that when the schools were nationalised in 1972 the land was also given to the education department.

According to the documents provided by the school administration, the Sikh Community of Peshawar and Nankana Sahib also wrote letters to the concerned authorities in 2005 to drop the plan of demolishing their worship place and raising commercial plaza at the site. The Sikhs urged that their religious site should be preserved and the school allowed should be allowed to function there.



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