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Checks are issued but not everyone can cash them

Lahore arson victims hit compensation problems

Checks are issued but not everyone can cash them
The Joseph Colony slum in Lahore reporter, Lahore

March 26, 2013

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Christians displaced by an arson attack on the Joseph Colony slum have mostly returned to their homes with the help of compensation money granted by the government.

But a few families say they have had difficulty cashing the compensation checks.

Nearly 200 homes were burned to the ground or severely damaged on March 9 when an angry mob attacked the Christian-majority slum after a local Christian was accused of blasphemy.

Victims of the attacks were settled in makeshift tent communities in the weeks following the attack, which drew heavy criticism from Muslim clerics and government officials.

Nadeem Masih says he received a compensation check in the amount of US$5,107, but the bank refused to honor it.

“I am a poor sanitary worker. I was hoping to buy necessary items with the compensation money, but I have not been able to get anyone to listen to my case,” he said. 

Meanwhile, his wife has done her best to salvage what she can from the ruins of their former home with donations from various Christian and Muslim charitable organizations.

Sunny Masih has also been unable to cash a compensation check from the government.

He says in some cases the banks have refused to honor the checks because of a lack of documentation such as identity cards, many of which were destroyed in the fire.

Tahir Ali, an official with the Town Inspection Office in Lahore, admitted that checks issued to a few families have not been cashed because of missing documentation.

“We have asked the victims to submit their requests at the revenue department,” he said.

He further claimed that the government had already given compensation money to all remaining families who lost homes in the arson attack. 

“We set up 220 tents outside the colony when the rehabilitation project commenced. All of the families have since returned to their homes,” he said, adding that only a few families remained in tents pending final reconstruction work.

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