Who owns Afghan Mar­ket in Pak­istan’s Peshawar?

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL - SHAHID SHALMANI

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.

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