Who owns Afghan Market in Pakistan’s Peshawar?
PESHAWAR: Hundreds of traders at the Afghan Market urged the Pakistani government on Monday and Tuesday not to expel them from the place where they have been doing business since 1993.
Speaking at a public meeting, the traders of the market in Peshawar said they had been paying rent to the Afghan government but the Supreme Court of Pakistan had recently issued a verdict which gave the market’s ownership to a Pakistani man.
Abdul Ghaffar, who has 10 shops in the market, told Arab News that they had built the market at an empty ground that was part of the Afghan Consulate before 1993.
He said that the consulate had asked them to set up their shops and they had paid rent to representatives of the Afghan government.
The strategy of shopkeepers if the ownership of the market changed would be to pay rent to the new owner or seek compensation for their shops if they were expelled, he said.
The chairman of the Afghan Market Committee, Malik Khan Sayed Mohmand, told Arab News that the market had 300 shops. “It is owned by Afghanistan. We respect the Supreme Court of Pakistan, but the person claiming ownership of this market has deceived everyone to wrongfully secure his interest,” he said.
Zardasht Shams, Afghanistan’s deputy ambassador in Islamabad, said that the market had been “the property of the Afghan National Bank since 1946 when the Afghan authorities bought the venue from a Hindu national.”
“The area of the market is more than 12 kanals (65,340 sq feet). The Afghan government purchased half of it in 1946 and the other half in 1947 from a Hindu,” he told Arab News. “Afghanistan is a war-ravaged country. It could not address the Afghan Market issue due to its own internal challenges. The person who has received a favorable Supreme Court verdict may have resorted to illegal means. We cannot do that as a government,” he said.
Mohammed Isa Khan, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, said it was a matter between the two governments and their officials could resolve it.
“One country can give its property to another under special permission,” he said. “Just like Afghanistan owns land in Pakistan, our country also owns land in Afghanistan.”
Khan said: “A man lays claim to land if he has a PTD (Provisional Transfer Document) or a PTO (Permanent Transfer Order). Sometimes fake documents can also be prepared to occupy someone’s land. In this case, however, the Afghan government can prove its ownership if it produces relevant documents in court.”
Discussing another scenario, he said that the Afghan government may not be able to claim the market if it were an evacuee property, or portion of land that was left behind by Hindus and Sikhs while migrating to India after Partition in 1947.
Meanwhile, the deputy Afghan ambassador told Arab News that the ownership issue related to the half of the market bought by the Afghan government in 1947. The other half, he said, was still undisputedly owned by the Afghan administration.
Zardasht Shams admitted that half of the market had remained controversial since the 1950s, as Pakistani government authorities called it an evacuee trust’s property. He said that Afghan authorities had already taken up the issue with Pakistan through diplomatic channels.
Haroon Safi, a spokesperson for the local trader union, Tajir Insaf, said the shopkeepers were interested in earning their livelihood from the same place, whether it was under the Afghan government or someone else.
“More than 3,000 families are dependent on their earnings from the Afghan Market, and it would lead to a crisis if they are expelled,” he said.