Church leaders in Pakistan have spoken out against the occupation of charity welfare properties by alleged land grabbers. The Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation in Pakistan runs one of the world’s largest networks of ambulances and homeless shelters. Bilquis Edhi, the widow of revered Muslim philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, said people enjoying political patronage occupied their properties. Edhi welfare centers were being demolished in Sindh and Balochistan provinces for commercial development, she told the Karachi Press Club. The centers have operated for three decades on land allocated by the National Highway Authority alongside highways. However, the teary-eyed widow said that a “land mafia” targeted the charity. Meanwhile, Catholic leaders called on the national government to intervene. Father Mario Rodrigues, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi, plans to raise the issue with provincial authorities at a meeting scheduled for next month if it is still unresolved. He added that the late Abdul Sattar Edhi was criticized by some Muslim clerics for carrying infidels in his ambulances. Father Rodrigues was among four priests who attended the state funeral of Abdul Sattar Edhi last year. Land encroachment is also a concern for the Catholic Church in Pakistan where properties in all seven dioceses are occasionally raided by land grabbers. Karachi Archdiocese is presently fighting a court case over the house of late Pakistani Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro who died in 1994. "The land mafia usually gets police support with hefty bribes," Father Rodrigues said. Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the Pakistani Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace, also urged the government to protect Edhi centers. Rapid urbanization and housing schemes at the expense of community services increased land prices and only benefited the wealthy.
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"We support Edhi centers for serving the poor," Father Mani said.