No progress has been made by the present government on the project of a model graveyard, the most important need of Rawalpindi which has been pending for 15 years.
People are facing a severe problem in burying their loved ones, as all graveyards in the garrison city have run out of space.
It seems that the work on the most important project will once again be postponed till next year. Ministers and members of the assemblies kept claiming to make the most modern cemetery functional on the 2,000-Kanal of land allotted for the cemetery in Dhamyal Rakh.
After the shortage of space for new graves in 54 cemeteries in the city of Rawalpindi and Cantonment, former Tehsil Nazim Hamid Nawaz Raja had allotted 1800 Kanals out of 2,000 Kanals of land in Dhamyal Rakh for Muslim cemetery and 200 Kanals for a Christian cemetery. Work on laying four walls, the main gate, ablution rooms and inner paved paths for the said land was completed, however, the cemetery could not be made functional in the last 15 years.
Mortuary buses, construction of cold storage, graveyard authority and other necessary arrangements could not be put in place.
Former Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had allocated Rs200 million in the 2017-18 budget for the establishment of a model graveyard authority. However, the model graveyard authority could not be established and the allocated funds could not be utilised and they lapsed at the end of the financial year. The plan was to provide water, funeral place, cold storage, procurement of corpse buses and establishment of the model graveyard authority at a cost of Rs200 million, but none of the work could be carried out.
In the city and Cantonment areas, the death of a loved one is not announced until the grave was arranged and there is no place for a grave in the local cemeteries. Most citizens have to take the bodies of their loved ones to their native areas after they fail to find graves.
The grave digger mafia often demolishes old and rotten graves in the dark of the night and sells them for thousands of rupees for those who have to bury their loved ones.
Currently, all cemeteries in the city have fallen into the hands of the graveyard mafia who charge as much as up to Rs34,000 for digging a grave.
The graves that were not visited by families were being demolished by these people to build a new one.
In the past, Punjab Law Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja, Provincial Minister for Literacy Raja Rashid Hafeez and Member Provincial Assembly Omar Tanveer Butt expressed their commitment to making the project functional soon, however, no progress has been made in this regard.
The issue seems to be on hold for the year 2022. On the other hand, regarding the Dhamyal Rakh model graveyard, former Tehsil Nazim Rawalpindi and PML-Q provincial leader Muhammad Nawaz Raja said that he had envisaged the project as Tehsil Nazim. There was still some work to be done to make it functional.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2021.