The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) issued a notice to some 48 Christian families in Lahore on October 28, to vacate their houses within 72 hours without providing compensation and alternative housing, said the US-based human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) with Website www.persecution.org.
LDA is responsible for planned development in Lahore and also acts as a regulatory body for construction and related permissions for homes and commercial properties. The Christian neighborhood is scheduled to be demolished to make way for a widening of the main road in
their Mariyam colony in Lahore’s Quid-e-Azam town area, ICC said.
“In violation of eminent domain law in Pakistan, however, the government is not offering these families any compensation.” The 67-year-old local resident Mansha Bhagat, who chairs the advocacy group Pakistan Masih Itehad, or ‘Pakistan Christian Unity’ said in published remarks that he and others would “never allow the administration to demolish their houses. “The local government does not treat us as equal citizens, and we are not provided the basic civic facilities as well.”
HUNDREDS OF HARDSHIPS
Bhagat added that the forefathers of the Christian community “faced hundreds of hardships to build this colony and now it is impossible for us to leave this place for the [notorious criminals].” He said he would be the “first one” to put himself “in front of the bulldozers when they come to bulldoze our houses.” ICC said some 70 people threatened that they would commit “collective suicide” if government officials bulldozed their houses.
Bhagat has urged authorities to allot alternative plots with complete civic facilities and compensation to all the effected families, ICC added.
Several families have reportedly moved their belongings to their relatives’ houses, but were determined to stay in their own houses even if that meant their deaths. “They complained that their children are experiencing severe emotional anxiety and could not go to school,” ICC said.
Officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but ICC said there have been talks between LDA and representatives of Christians, who have been living in the neighborhood since 1984 and “regularly pay all their utility bills.”
The group said it has urged its supporters around the world to contact Pakistani embassies to demand they “protect the rights of Christians and all religious minorities.” There has been growing tensions over the perceived lack of protection of religious minorities in this mainly Muslim nation. END