WASA, minority members head for showdown: Land grab near lake
Rawalpindi: October 4, 2008. (Khadijah Shah report for PCP) The stage is set for a showdown between the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) and some members of a religious minority on Sunday over the illegal occupation of a piece of land near Rawal Lake.
WASA has long been criticizing the head of an international NGO – Peace Worldwide – for allegedly encroaching 150 kanals close to a filtration plant on the pretext of building a church without the approval of the CDA, the agency or any other government department.
Some 500 WASA employees have been asked to prevent the Christian community members from gathering on the site for prayers on Sunday, officials said on condition of anonymity.
The civic agency has also sent a letter to the United Nations, asking it to take notice of the head of its member NGO, claiming he was illegally occupying public land and inciting the minority members against government servants in the name of religion.
The officials told ROD that WASA had decided to confront the Christian community members when they would assemble near Rawal Lake. On the other hand, Peace WorldWide chief Hector Aleem vowed to put up a fight against any hurdles created by the government departments.
"Why the government did not punish people who desecrated the Holy Bible and Cross during a crackdown by the CDA staff on our members at Rawal Lake?
"We want the issue to be settled peacefully, otherwise we would apprise the international community of the issue," he warned.
He said the occupation of land by the minority members was a reaction to the cold response shown by the police and the government towards the desecration that took place on August 11.
"The CDA's anti-enforcement squad injured a number of our community and I talked to top police officials in Islamabad but to no avail. The government should punish and sentence those responsible for tearing up the copies of the Holy Bible," Mr Aleem said.
He said on Sunday when the Christians would gather at Rawal Lake, the employees of WASA should not disturb them, otherwise they would retaliate with the same force.
WASA Managing Director Lt-Col (retired) Islamul Haq said the agency had the right to protect its land. However, he added that his department did not want to use force. He said the Punjab government would soon take notice of the illegal occupation.
It is to be mentioned here that some members of the Christian community claim that there was a church near Rawal Lake some 30 years ago but it was demolished by the CDA. Now they have vowed to reconstruct it on the same site.
But, WASA says that how can a church be constructed at a place where the extension to the Rawal Lake Filtration Plant would be carried out on the orders of the Punjab government.
Ferhan Mazher, chairman of Rays of Development Organization, said that Government specially WASA should be very careful and should learn to respect the Holy Places of worship like Churches or Mosques. Mazher said that if some body touched the church he should be ready to face the furry of Christian community. Mazher added Pakistan is already facing the cost of mishandling a mosque in Islamabad by law enforcement agencies. WASA and CDA should provide an alternative site for holy church and poor Christians and instead of using force they should initiate dialogue with the Christian community