Victim support charity chief ‘took armed gang to settle land dispute’
Published in the Mail on Sunday (January 26th, 2014)
The head of Victim Support, the Government-backed charity for people affected by crime, has been accused of taking an armed gang to settle a long-running land dispute in his native Pakistan.
Javed Khan is reported to have arrived in the village of Haveli Bagal last week with about eight men armed with automatic rifles. Witnesses claim that one middle-aged woman who tried to stop the gang from bulldozing a contested wall of the village graveyard was threatened by the charity chief and that shots were fired in the air.
Mr Khan spent several hours at a local police station as officers tried to resolve the row. Yesterday, a contempt of court notice was said to have been served, as the dispute was already before a civil court.
The events threaten to embarrass Victim Support, which receives £38 million a year from the Government. They may also tarnish the reputation of Mr Khan, 50, who has been cited as one of the most influential British Muslims and is set to begin a new role as chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s later this year.
Mr Khan left Pakistan as a small boy when his father brought the family to Britain, but they still own a house and land there.
Witnesses in the remote village in the Kashmir region say they saw Mr Khan and his party arrive in two Toyota Land Cruisers. Several of the men were openly carrying automatic weapons, said one shopkeeper.
Tempers frayed after the group began using a bulldozer to demolish the disputed boundary wall, which Mr Khan’s family believe encroaches on their land.
‘The community tried to halt them,’ said Ziarab Hussain, one of the village elders leading the protests against the Mr Khan. ‘By the time I reached them, half of the wall was bulldozed. One man was holding a gun against me. I was not aggressive and told them to stop and respect the court order.’
Witnesses say that as tempers rose, the order was given to shoot a middle-aged woman. ‘Her husband stood against the gun, saying let Javed Khan do it himself,’ said a villager. Shots were then fired in the air, the source claimed.
The confrontation, which was confirmed yesterday by police, was defused after officers arrived at the scene. Inspector Khawaja Qayyum said there had been a dispute but it was now resolved, with a new wall erected on the correct boundary.
He added that both sides accused the other of brandishing guns but police did not see any firearms or gunshot wounds. ‘In this area, it is the custom that everyone shows guns in disputes,’ he added.
Both Mr Khan and Mr Hussain spent several hours with police. Villagers allege they were told the matter would be resolved the following day, but instead officers helped Mr Khan, a prominent local figure, rebuild the wall along the lines he wanted the same day.
His brother is understood to have visited Haveli Bagal last summer regarding the contested plot. Afterwards, villagers took action in a civil court and it is understood summons were served on the brothers.
Mr Khan refused to comment this weekend, although he admitted to being in the village. A Victim Support spokesman said Mr Khan was in Pakistan in a personal capacity, adding: ‘We are making inquiries into local media reports but cannot comment further at this time.’