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Nowadays, the burial of a loved one has become a challenging task for the family. Getting a place in the graveyard is more difficult to get a place at footpath for a night sleep. And this is not the issue of an individual, the is the story of the whole Rawalpindi District.
When Asif Ali’, not his real name, father died a few months back, he faced the same issue. “It was July 2018, when my further died, toughest time for the entire family But a real problem started when we went out to search a place in a graveyard and despite working of several hours, I failed to find a place for my dad,” said Asif Ali.
Finally, his problem was solved when their demands were met. The administrator of the graveyard discovered decades-old grave in the graveyard of Dhok Kala Khan. It was only made possible when the administrator received a handsome amount. A large number of people encountered this problem by either buying their relatives in the same grave of old loved ones while replacing relics or pay money to the gravedigger to find a suitable place in the graveyard.
According to 2017 census, Rawalpindi is the city of 2 million populations where there are only 69 graveyards. The data show out of them, 67 are owned by the Municipal Corporation Rawalpindi and rest of the two are managed by Chaklala Cantonment Board. All of them except Dhok Khabba’s union council graveyard, are full and do not have any space left for new graves. There are, however, some private graveyards established by the wealthy families in the city, but they are few in numbers and not open to everyone.
The Municipal Corporation graveyards are managed by the local administrative committee of the local elders. Due to the lack of available space in the graveyard, residents are compelled to bury their relatives in the old graves of the others. But this is not possible without the alleged support of gravedigger, who charged a hefty amount for this service. Gravedigger keeps an eye on such graves which are either leveled due to lack of maintenance or the relatives do not visit them for a for a long time. He gives that space to others after getting bribe money.
During the survey, it was revealed that the gravedigger gets fifteen to twenty thousand rupees of a single grave, which include digging and all other arrangements. While land required for an average grave is 18 square feet. 6 feet is average length while 3 feet is the average width of a grave. Kashif Mehmood, not his real name, told that when his father died, they had no money to pay to gravedigger but somehow his brother in law managed the amount to give to him.
Nazar Muhammad, the gravedigger at Pirwadhai graveyard – which is one of the biggest graveyards of the city, said, “this graveyard is filled 30 years back but still we are burying new dead bodies and it is only possible by leveling the old graves. Sometimes, we find skulls while digging the old graves, we bury them in a corner of the grave and prepare a place for the newly dead body”, Nazar added.
Zeeshan Ahmed Khan, the Chairman of the Union Council 38 and also the President of the Graveyard Management Committee of Priwadhae and Eidgah Sharif graveyard, said that all the graveyards of the city are already occupied, there is no other option for the residents except to bury their relatives in old graves of someone else. “The management committee of graveyards has decided to impose the ban on the paving of the graves as paving graves occupy the space for the lifetime, which is not good”, he explained.
Ezzat Shah, caretaker of Muhalla Hukam dad graveyard briefed, “there is no space in this graveyard but when it requires, we bury the dead body in between the two graves, adding that we charge eighteen thousand rupees in advance for this arrangements. When contacted, PTI’s Member of Punjab Assembly, Umer Tanveer Butt said, “Establishment of a new graveyard within the city is not possible, provincial Government has already allotted the 2000 Kanal land for the establishment of state-of-the-art graveyard near Dhamyal Rawalpindi”.
Record of all graves in the new graveyard will be made online and citizens will be able to view the graves of their loved ones from anywhere in the world but added. In 1996 the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto announced to allow space for the graveyard at Rakh Dhamial. For the proposed graveyard, 2000 Kanal land was acquired from the Forest Department. The Punjab Shehr-i-Khamoshan Authority is also formed to develop modern graveyard, however, the project could not be developed so far.
To keep the data lifetime, the new graveyards will be constructed on modern lines where data of all buried men, women and children will be computerized. The proposed location for the graveyard is 30 KM away from the city and it is one of the primary reasons why people prefer to bury their loved ones in old graves. Imran Ashraf is a resident of Rawalpindi and for him reaching to a newly formed graveyard of Rakh Dhamial is not possible without having own vehicle.
According to the Deputy Director Planning and Development, Saima Ghafoor said, Rs 2 million has been allocated in current Annual Development Projects (ADP) for the development of graveyard at Dhamyal. The assessment of the project is in the final stage and work will start very soon. The Provincial Minister Rashid Hafeez says, “land for the graveyard at Dhamiyal has already been allocated and we are trying to complete this project as soon as possible”.
While commenting on the problems faced by the common man to reach to Dhamiyal, he informed, “the special buses will be arranged for transporting bodies and a special team will maintain cleanliness and look after other affairs of the premises
The religious scholar, Syed Izhar Bukhari told that there is no restriction in Islam on the burial of new dead bodies in old graves, however, if human organs are found, it must be buried in a corner of the same grave.