etpb: Pakistan SC asks ETPB chief to explain alleged forging of documents for sale of Hindu property in Karachi

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday summoned the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) to explain the alleged forging of documents for the sale of a heritage Hindu property here, a media report said. “Under what law are the properties belonging to the minorities being sold?” Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked during the hearing of a petition filed by Pakistan Hindu Council patron-in-chief and member of the National Assembly Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Vankwani, in his petition, claimed that the ETPB had forged documents to prove the Sindh Heritage Department issued a No Objection Certificate for the demolition of a heritage property – a Dharamshala for Hindu pilgrims in Karachi’s Saddar Town area spread across 716 square yards, the report said.

The land was handed over to a builder for the construction of an upscale shopping centre, the petitioner claimed.

On June 11, the apex court had ordered the Sindh government’s Heritage Department and the ETPB not to demolish any part of the Dharamshala.

It had also directed Karachi’s commissioner to take over the property to ensure there is no encroachment, the report said.

Vankwani has asked the SC to transfer control of the premises to the nearby Baghani Temple and requested for an inquiry by the Federal Investigation Agency into the alleged forging of documents and demolition of the heritage property by the ETPB, it said.

The ETPB is a statutory board that administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after the Partition.

In his petition, Vankwani also asked the apex court to issue fresh directives to the ETPB to release funds worth Pakistani Rupees 38 million to the PHC and initiate contempt proceedings against the organisation.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had granted Pakistani Rupees 2 million to the PHC for the restoration work of the shrine of Shri Paramhans Dayal Ji Maharaj (Teri temple) in Karak.

However, the remaining amount (the temple restoration work costs touched Pakistani Rupees 40 million), was to be paid by the ETPB.

“Unfortunately, the ETPB has not paid the balance amount of Pakistani Rupees 38 million to PHC even though eight months have elapsed since the issuance of the order (on February 8),” Vankwani alleged.

The applicant informed the court that of a total of 1,831 temples and gurudwaras under the ETPB’s jurisdiction, only 31 were being used for worship.

The remaining have either been closed down, encroached upon or given on lease to a third party, the report added.

Last week, the century-old Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj temple in Teri village was opened to devotees by the Pakistan Chief Justice after the restoration work was completed.

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