SHC seeks report on Chowkandi Graveyard encroachments

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday gave the culture and heritage department’s special secretary two weeks time to submit a comprehensive report, explaining measures adopted by the department to remove illegal encroachments from the historic site, Chowkandi Graveyard.

A division bench, headed by Justice Nadeem Akhtar, had taken up a petition filed by an NGO, Raah-e-Rast Trust, which moved the Court seeking preservation of the historic site located near National Highway.

The petitioner, Agha Syed Atta-u-Allah Shah, Chairman of Trust submitted that spread over 60 acres, the 16-century-old graveyard of the Mughal era was a precious national heritage site. He said some influential persons were stealing the carved stones from the graveyard to use them as decoration pieces in drawing rooms of their houses.

Agha said the influential people had encroached upon the land surrounding the graveyard and using it for commercial activities including building hotels and offices of truck stands. Despite the fact that the graveyard was precious national heritage and preserved under Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994, the provincial government did not take any action to stop these illegal activities, he said.

The petitioner had pleaded the court to issue directions for the authorities concerned to take action against illegal encroachments on the site.

During the previous hearing, Agha told the judges that the culture and heritage department had failed to comply with the court orders regarding submission of a map of the graveyard’s total area and a report on its efforts for preservation of the site.

Expressing displeasure over the authorities for disobedience of its earlier order, the court had summoned the culture and heritage department secretary.

On Tuesday, the provincial law officer told the court that the office of the culture and heritage department secretary was lying vacant and additional secretary held the charge for the time being.

However, Abdul Karim Solangi, special secretary showed up in the court and undertook to submit the map of the graveyard and a report in compliance of the court order.

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