First Pakistani PM’s kin claim half of UP’s Muzaffarnagar city
If the descendants of Pakistan's first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan win this battle, half of Muzaffarnagar city in UP will be theirs.
It's a fight that has gripped the imagination of this bustling western Uttar Pradesh town. The property dispute relates to the ownership of Rs 674 crore worth of real estate in Muzaffarnagar, which allegedly belonged to Liaquat Ali and his kin. The district administration has dug up all old records to rubbish the claim.
It was in 2003 that four local residents, said to be distant relatives of Liaquat Ali, prepared a deed declaring themselves his descendants. They then quietly approached the UP Revenue Commission to get possession of 106 plots owned by the Khan family in the city, which roughly covered 50% of Muzaffarnagar.
When the Muzaffarnagar DM finally received a direction from the revenue commission two weeks ago to look into the matter, the acquisition was quickly labelled a "fraud". An FIR was lodged on Thursday and a probe is on. An investigation to be headed by the ADM (finance) has also been set up.
Liaquat Ali had served as a member of the provincial legislative council from Muzaffarnagar between 1926 and 1940, when he was finally elected to the central legislative assembly.
According to his four "relatives", Liaquat Ali's family had huge properties in the district and after his migration to Pakistan, his cousin Umar Daraz Ali got the possession of all of it. Subsequently, it was transferred to Daraz Ali's son Ajaz Ali. The four claim to be Ajaz's progeny.
Local tehsildar Rajnikant told TOI: "The four accused, Jamshed Ali, Khurshed Ali, Mumtaz Begum and Imtiaz Begum had made the deed documents on February 26, 2003. After waiting for a couple of years, the deed documents were sent to the revenue board in Lucknow and they demanded possession of the properties." The board then asked the district administration about the actual position of these plots and the buildings erected on the claimed lands.
The district administration, in turn, checked its records and found that the land being claimed now housed a number of government buildings, including the DM's bungalow, railway station, company garden, central school and other prominent structures.
Muzaffarnagar DM Nikhil Chandra Shukla told TOI, "This is a case of total fraud. We have checked our revenue records and all the buildings are standing on government land."
However, the DM added, "Even if their claim is true, where is the original title deed of the property? Even if one believes the story of the four claimants, where are the documents of transfer from Ajaz Ali to them? It is such a big property and no stamp duty has ever been paid on its transfer? This is nothing but a sheer lie."
One of the accused, who requested anonymity, insisted the family has the records to prove ownership. "The administration is playing a dirty game," he said. "Jamshed Ali, Khurshed Ali, Mumtaz Begum and Imtiaz Begum are the rightful owners of the property being the direct descendants of Umar Daraz Ali Khan. We have records to prove it."
In a similar lawsuit, and perhaps the biggest property dispute in independent India, the Supreme Court in 2005 had established the ownership of Mohammed Amir Mohammed Khan, the erstwhile raja of Mehmoodabad, on properties worth at least Rs 3,000 crore in Sitapur and Lucknow which were under state government's control.
On the plea of a group of tenants, the apex court constituted a committee to ascertain the tenancy rights of those occupying the properties before 1965, when the Enemy Property Act came into existence. The Act, passed after the 1965 India-Pakistan War, pertains to the property of any Indian who had migrated to Pakistan after Independence, and placed it in the government's custody.
In July 2010, the President promulgated an ordinance which restrained courts from ordering the government to divest enemy properties from the custodian (government). Following this, the custodian (government) again took over Raja's properties. Although the ordinance expired after six months before being converted into a bill, the properties were not divested back to the Mehmoodabad scion as there was no bill or any other mechanism to annul the effects of the ordinance.
In 2011, the ex-raja approached the Uttarakhand high court in Nainital for relief as a prominent hotel there was among the enemy properties. The case is still being heard. For now, though, the final word in cases related to the ownership of the property of those who migrated to Pakistan rests with the government and not courts.