A unique tale of land grabbing in Islamabad

Associated Press of Pakistan

Residents of Sector I-8/2 of Islamabad, adjacent to a small market and the Abu-Huraira Mosque in street no 58 have expressed concern over the mushroom growth of graves and the lack of action by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) over the illegal graveyard.

The practice started back in the 1990s when there were only two graves located in the area. They were said to belong to the ancestors of those who traditionally lived there and whose land had been acquired by the government.

Since the graves could not be moved to another place, it was decided that these should remain.

However, over time, others started burying their dead around the two graves. Over the past 30 odd years, the two graves multiplied to over six dozen graves.

The residents on numerous occasions complained to the CDA over the development of the unauthorised and unofficial graveyard. They even suggested fencing off the mini graveyard to prevent it from turning into a ‘regular’ graveyard but to little consequence.

Some residents suggested that the place should be converted into a park since the capital’s master plan only listed the provision for a graveyard in sectors H-8 and H-11.

“We approached the CDA again and again over the years, repeatedly bringing to their notice the growth of this illegal graveyard,” said a resident of street 58 while requesting anonymity. “But, our requests went unheeded and the place turned into a regular graveyard having started off from just two graves.”

“If this trend is not stopped, in the near future these graves would lead to our boundary walls appearing as if we are living with the dead,” he added.

The graves are now located on both sides of the street, but the CDA, after seeing the rapid growth of graves, only constructed a boundary wall around a small graveyard on one side.

With no action taken on the other side of the street, people continued to bury their loved ones on that.

The residents conceded that while they cannot remove old graves, but action could have been taken to discourage further burials at the site.

“We respect graves and do not demand that they be removed. But the CDA could have at least built a boundary wall around it to discourage the trend,” said another resident. When contacted, the CDA officials said, there was no provision for a graveyard in this area with the only approved graveyards located in sectors H-8 and H-11.

“There were some old graves and people continued burying bodies over there,” the official said.

However, he was silent on the question as to why no action was taken to even construct a wall to cordon off the graves.

Residents have demanded that the CDA build a boundary wall around the graveyard and to build a library on the remaining portion of the land.

“We are ready to contribute towards the construction of a library as well as donate books to benefit student if CDA agrees to the proposal,” they added.

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