The plot thickens

Published 09 Jun, 2019 03:35am


Aleem Khan being greeted by supporters upon his release on bail | Aun Jafri, White Star
Aleem Khan being greeted by supporters upon his release on bail | Aun Jafri, White Star

Farooq Tariq has been working for a socialist revolution since the 1980s — without any success. But he has not given up and continues to lead protests, make speeches and mobilise people on a range of economic and political issues, including land ownership rights for peasants and slum dwellers. Since 2004, he has been simultaneously waging another battle — for his own land rights.

That year, a government official ruled that Tariq was not the lawful owner of his house in Nazir Garden Society, a residential neighbourhood on the north-eastern edge of Lahore. His residence, as well as 200 or so other houses and many shops in the vicinity, were all built on the state’s land.

Tariq was shocked. Like other residents of Nazir Garden Society, he had purchased land for his house from the property market and it was duly transferred to him in the government’s revenue records. What could have gone wrong, he wondered.

He first heard about Nazir Garden Society – spread over 400 kanals (or 242,000 square yards) of land – in 1997. It was advertised as being developed by Parkview Housing Society (which was also developing a much bigger and pricier housing project in front of a proposed new terminal for Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport). When Tariq bought his plot, its transfer deed was signed by one Abdul Aleem Khan, general secretary of Parkview Housing Society at that time.

After losing the ownership of their houses and shops to the state, Tariq and other residents of Nazir Garden Society approached Khan. They asked him to resolve the problem. He was then working as a provincial minister in Punjab’s government and was known to be close to the leadership of the ruling party — Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PMLQ). He had enough clout to have the residents and the state officials sit across a table and find a negotiated settlement. He, though, said there was nothing he could do.

This excerpt is part of the Herald's June 2019 issue. To read more, subscribe to the Herald in print.