Pakistan: Gojra victims seek housing plan of their choice

News and Press Release
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By Mohammad Saleem

FAISALABAD: Christian families, of Gojra, are reportedly not satisfied with the houses built by the Punjab government, though it spent Rs170 million on the construction of houses damaged in communal riots on July 30 and Aug 1 last year, according to an official report and officials engaged in the rehabilitation work.

Sixty-eight houses were torched or partially damaged in Christian Colony and 49 houses in Chak Korian in riots on Aug 1 last year over an alleged desecration of the Holy Quran. Seven Christians of a family were burnt alive and about 20 Muslims sustained bullet injuries in the ensuing violence.

Dawn learnt heirs to Hameed Masih, who was killed in the riots, have refused to accept the design of house approved by the government and instead they got prepared an independent design which would cost Rs5 million.

Earlier, Masih and other area people would be residing in typical neighbourhood houses. Now, they demand costly houses. An official committee overseeing the rehabilitation process has sent the matter to the provincial government for action.

The government built 57 houses and two churches in Christian Colony and repaired or renovated 11 houses and two churches. The construction cost Rs64.62 million and 19 contractors were engaged.

The material used in the construction included reinforced cement concrete for lintels and bed plates, roofs of T-iron and girders with double tile roofing treatments, cement sand plasters, compound walls, deodar wood paneled doors and windows, mosaic floorings, concealed conduit electric installations, water storage tanks (200 gallon) and water supply for each house.

Sources said some Christian families also resisted the construction work and demanded structure of their houses according to their own will. However, the government officials remained glue to the actual plan approved by the authority.

According to the report, Parveen Masih, Naeem Masih, Daud Masih, Irfan Masih, Ms Boota Masih, Adnan Masih, Azeem Masih, Refique Masih, Ms Victor, Zeenat, Rehmat, Laal Masih, Vicky Masih, Younis Masih, Ms Sultan Masih and Talib Qamir Masih demolished the construction or created hurdle in the activity.

A government officer requesting anonymity said that the additional demand by the area people for alteration and renovation of their houses would cost Rs8.18 million. He said the names of such people had been dispatched to the government for further action. He said a 14-member committee consisting of Christians was made to recommend financial compensation of the victim families.

Similarly, the government spent Rs85 million on the construction of house at Chak Korian and the project was started by the provincial building circle on Aug 11 last and completed on Dec 7. Under this project, the government built two churches and 49 residences. Up to Rs1.3 million was estimated for the construction of one house and 13 contractors were engaged in the plan.

The executing agency has handed over 48 houses to owners, however, one house is yet to be handed over its real owner who is not available so far. Two churches were also handed over to the Christians. Also, some occupants have altered the newly completed houses.

The executing agency officials have also reported to the Punjab government that the addition or alteration being done can cause collapse of the structures.

The Gojra Tehsil Municipal Administration completed the work of reconstruction of drainage, nullah, culverts, roads, a park and street lights in Christian Colony.

The Physical Housing and Department executed the plan of water supply and sanitation system costing Rs7.2 million.

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