Islamabad, Apr.8 : The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) of Pakistan has left dozens of Kashmiri refugee families without a place to live in the country.
According to official records of the ETPB, 1,081 Kashmiri families were allotted property in different districts of the country in 1959 under Scheme 7. Some families were allotted land in "Hindu gaddis"- the land adjacent and dedicated to temples - on temporary basis.
As a result of long litigations, a law was enacted in 1975, allowing permanent ownership of property to Kashmiri families after submission of proscribed fees with the national exchequer in 1977-78.
The Daily Times has now learnt that the refugees have been denied ownership rights despite the enactment of the new law because occupants of the property had refused to vacate it. The refugees have repeatedly filed property claims in courts, but to no avail, as they have been fixed by counter claims of current occupants.
Some of these occupants claimed that they have been paying rent to the refugee families, but had stopped doing so after filing counter-claims in courts. According to the Daily Times, officials of the ETPB and the Auquaf Department have manipulated the situation and extorted money from both disputing parties.
The latest decision on the issue came on November 19, 2003 from Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi Bench, which directed the ETPB to clear the ownership rights within two months and return the property to its genuine owners.
After much delay, ETPB said in 2005 that no party could claim permanent ownership of the property because of complexity of the issue. Then the secretary for minorities' affairs also directed the ETPB chairman to make a "prudent decision" on the case so that the property owners were not discriminated against.
The issue is still pending with the ETPB.