In his maiden speech, Prime Minister Imran Khan as part of his austerity scheme announced to convert huge buildings such as the governor houses and Prime Minister house, spread over hundreds of canals of land, into public institutions. The decision, which is termed as pro-people, is appreciated across the country. These buildings belong to the government as they are public property. One building, located in a very prime location and being used as the Secretariat for Punjab’s chief minister; used to be a private property. It was however taken over by the government after confiscating it under the garb of carrying out ‘banned activities’. Yes it is not any other building but 90, Shahrah-e-Qaid-e-Azam on the Mall Road in Lahore. This building used to be one of the Freemasonry Lodges in the country before 1977, when the organization was banned terming it as anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan. In 1859, the first Freemason lodge was built in Lahore on the site where the Lady Maclagan High School is situated on Lodge Road, Anarkali. They were then relocated to 90 Shahrah-e-Quaid-i-Azam in 1916, after the land was purchased for Rs.32,519. Later on June 10, 1983, the Martial Law Administrator -General ZiaulHaq through Martial Law Regulation No. 56 declared the Freemasons Association as unlawful had it dissolved. The authorities also decided that the provincial government would take possession of all the properties belonging to the association. The MLR also took away every legal remedy from Freemasons to get their property back or to get their organization restored. The building now known as Lodge 90 was formerly known as Concord Lodge No. 1416 FC. Originally the Punjab government confiscated it on September 13, 1974. The masters of the lodge managed to convince the court and won the first round of litigation, which started in 1975, within three years. However, the second round of litigation started on July 11, 1995 and is still pending before the LHC. Kabir A Sheikh, Mazhar Mufti, Dr Dara J Hormasji, Ajmal Wahid, AGK Lodhi and Ahmad Ali Bhatti, all masters of different Masonic lodges, filed the petition. Ajmal Wahid and AGK Lodhi were the only ones alive till 2017 when I had contacted them and talked to one of them, but the rest of the petitioners died during the 23-year pendency of their cases. General Zia ul Haq through Martial Law Regulation No. 56 declared the Freemasons Association as unlawful and had it dissolved. The authorities also decided that the provincial government would take possession of all the properties belonging to the association During this time, more than 15 different judges of the LHC took up the matter and as many as 100 hearings have taken place. Four judges, including Justice Fazal Miran Chohan, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Sair Ali and Justice M Javed Buttar have refused to take up the matter when the matter was presented before them for the hearing. Till last year the matter was pending before Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabbir, who took up the matter on May 19, 2017. However, the court timings were over on that particular day and the case was simply relisted for June 1. Justice Munir A Sheikh, Justice Ali Nawaz Chohan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Farrukh Irfan, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Sh Ahmed Farooq, Justice Sair Ali, Justice NasirSaeed Sheikh and Justice Ahmed Farooq have been dealing with this case. In their petition, the masters also showed their willingness to accept compensation for their property if it was so dear to the provincial administration. Wahid told me that the courts were reluctant to get the property vacated as the matter involved the Punjab government. He said the government could bring nothing on record against them to establish that their Freemasonry was anti-state or anti-Islam. Interestingly, the martial law regulations were lifted when thethe martial law administrator was over, and the constitution was restored with the restoration of the democracy. However, only the MLR 56 of 1978 is still intact as it suits the government in having this expensive building under its control. In continuation of his austerity scheme and converting huge buildings of governor houses and the prime minister house into public buildings, it is the suitable time for the Prime Minister of ‘naya Pakistan’ to fix one of the wrongs of the past rulers by returning the 90 Shahrah to its original owners by doing away with the martial law regulation which already has lost its legal value. Yes, he is the only PM who can do it as the owners already have lost their confidence in courts as most of them lost their lives in the battle to get their property back. The writer is a journalist currently based in Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org @RanaTanver Published in Daily Times, August 22nd 2018.