LAHORE: Allegedly on the behest of the provincial government, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) took possession of a Christian property, ‘Gosha-e-Aman situated on Allama Iqbal Road, Garhi Shahu, demolishing the building on Tuesday.

Catholic Church has condemned the demolition of its property by the LDA, terming it an illegal move of land grabbing by the government functionaries.

Gosha-e-Aman was run by a board of Catholic Church and managed by CARITAS Pakistan. The institution is registered in the name of Lahore Charitable Association and was established in 1887. The two-acre property, worth billions of rupees, had a large compound that previously housed a home for elderly people, a girls school, a convent and a Chapel (small Church).

The District Coordinating Officer was present to supervise the demolition with heavy mechanical apparatus and a contingent of police. He ordered a couple of families residing there to move out of the building and started demolition of the property with bulldozers and other machinery.

When the reporters asked the DCO and other police officials about the reason of the demolition, they said that the property had been transferred to the Punjab government and had already served notices to vacate the property since last year. Soon after the action of the LDA with cooperation of the police, dozens of Christians gathered on the spot and protested against the demolition. They were beating up themselves in protest and chanted slogans against the PML-N government as well as its leadership. They also burnt tyres to record their protest and blocked the road for some time.

Later, the effected people with their leadership, including Father Emmanuel Yousuf Mani, Joseph Frances and Shehzad Elahi, MPA, held a press conference at the Lahore Press Club and claimed that the Punjab government was trying to overcome its revenue deficit by occupying the Christian property. They claimed that such act of the government was illegal as the matter of this property was in court. They said it was a highly precious piece of land, worth Rs 4 billion. They also announced that they would knock all the relevant doors against the possession of the Christian property by government. They also alleged that during demolition of their small church, the officials did not care about their holy relics.

Catholic Church, in its statement, claimed that demolition of Christian property was an illegal act, which was supervised by the DCO while he had no document to support his claim that the said property was transferred to the provincial government. The church also said that the government had not served any notice to the residents and the legal property holders (Lahore Charitable Association). Many religious artifacts were also destroyed during the demolition, it claimed.

Fr Emmanuel, while addressing the media, strongly condemned the demolition and demanded that the possession of the property should be returned to its legal holders immediately and the losses should be compensated. Referring to previous incidents of aggression against religious minorities, specifically with the Christian Community at Shantinagar, he said that the government should stop jeopardising the rights of the religious minorities in Pakistan. He also showed legal papers of the property and stay order issued by the Lahore High Court to the media. Catholic Church has also announced a protest rally for today (Wednesday) to condemn the incident.