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Missionary school land declared ‘state land’

Missionary school land declared ‘state land’

RAWALPINDI: The Punjab education department has declared the land of the Government Christian High School for Boys, Raja Bazaar a ‘state land’ and has directed the district coordination officer to ensure that encroachments are removed from the area.

The school, which is commonly known as the Mission High School, is over 150 years old. Established in 1856 by the American Presbyterian Mission, the Mission High School in Raja Bazaar was renamed the Government Christian Higher Secondary School. The school was affiliated with Calcutta University and in 1893, received ‘college’ status. In 1902, the college was separated and named Gordon College, and moved to its present premises near Liaquat Bagh.

Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, former Sindh governor retired justice Deen Mohammad, former prime minister Sir Firoz Khan Noon, former railways minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, former MNA Malik Shakil Awan and many other politicians, engineers, doctors and journalists studied at this school.

In 1970, like many other institutions, Mission High School was nationalised. It is being run by the Punjab government at present, which has failed to protect the school’s land from being encroached upon.

The Presbyterian Mission Lahore attempted to take back possession of the school and its land in 2001, but was opposed by the Punjab Teachers Association. The opposition claimed that the mission that established the school was not in the country and prior to partition, the government gave the land to the mission to run the school so it remained in the government’s possession.

The association then went to the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench, which directed on Apr 17, 2015, that the Punjab chief secretary would listen to the arguments of both parties and issue directives according to the law.

The chief secretary then asked the Punjab Schools Education secretary to listen to both parties, before issuing a notification that the 37 kanals and 2 marla upon which stand the school’s building, shops, a private school and employee quarters, were the property of the school, under the control of the provincial government.

Some 38 shops are owned by the school, and shopkeepers are supposed to give the shops rent to the school’s management. The notification stated: “The tenants produced fake documents regarding ownership of these shops and illegally occupied the shops and the property of the school.”

The education department directed the DCO to vacate the shops occupied illegally by encroachers possessing fake documents. The Punjab Teachers Association Rawalpindi region president Ch Sagheer Alam, who was the petitioner in the case, told Dawn that the teachers went to court because the school was a local asset and the land, which is in the middle of Raja Bazaar, was government property. He said they wanted to improve the condition of the historic school.

He said fruit and vegetable vendors and shopkeepers on Iqbal Road had encroached upon the land and reduced its size with each passing day. He said the nearby church had had nothing to do with the school in the past, and the association produced the school’s revenue documents in court.

A senior official from the City District Government Rawalpindi told Dawn that after receiving the directions, revenue officials visited Raja Bazaar to demarcate the land so the encroachments could be removed.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2016

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