Lahore:Following an independent fact-finding mission, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has found that the local authorities in Yazman, Bahawalpur district, were responsible for demolishing the homes of a Hindu community in Chak 52/DB.
While the assistant commissioner of Yazman claims he acted on a complaint filed by a local registrar accusing the community of attempting to sell ‘state-owned land illegally’, HRCP has strong grounds to believe that the latter, Muhammad Boota, used political connections to threaten and intimidate the Hindu community into selling land they were legally allotted by the Board of Revenue in 2018 to construct their homes, an HRCP statement said. The community has documentary proof of this allotment (available with HRCP) and alleges that Mr Boota’s aim was to increase his own landholdings.
According to the HRCP, the demolition occurred despite the fact that the Hindu community – fearing this might come to pass after being threatened by Mr Boota on several occasions – had filed a case petitioning a senior civil judge of the Bahawalpur bench to issue an order forbidding any such action. Even though the restraining order was issued, on 20 May 2020, 25 houses were levelled and another 10 partly demolished, leaving their occupants – including young children – without any access to shelter. One respondent claimed that she was dragged out of the house by her hair.
“HRCP notes with serious concern that the Hindu community, already vulnerable as a religious minority, was targeted on grounds of faith to advance the interests of the local land mafia.
Indeed, Mr Boota referred preposterously to the community as ‘Hindu occupationists.’ HRCP urges the federal minister for housing and works, Tariq Bashir Cheema, to take action against the perpetrators who claim to enjoy his protection. Moreover, the Punjab government must compensate all those families affected by the demolition,” the HRCP statement concluded.