Authorities in Punjab have issued a notification against the illegal construction of mosques and growing sectarianism in Bahawalpur district.
According to the notification, 45 mosques are currently being built without prior official permission. Of these, 29 are in Bhawalpur district, 12 in Rahim Yar Khan and four in Bahawalnagar.
Recent clashes between Shia and Sunni communities and Barelvi and Deobandi sects have prompted the provincial authorities to take steps to check the rising tide of sectarianism in the region.
The notification has been sent by the home department to the district administrations after a report compiled by a special branch of police in Bhawalpur. Around 697 religious extremists are also under the surveillance of the force.
Out of the 697 persons, 211 are listed in the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which means they are the most dangerous suspects.
These suspects cannot leave the area without informing the police first.
On the other hand, 177 mosques have been identified as being tainted by sectarian conflicts. Shia and Sunni communities are squabbling over the possession of some of these mosques, while Barelvis and Deobandis have their differences over the prayer leaders there.
Bahawalpur’s District Coordination Officer Dr Naeem Rauf confirmed that they had received a notification and admitted that some of the mosques which had been demolished earlier were being reconstructed.
“We will develop a comprehensive list of mosques before we begin a crackdown,” Dr Rauf said.
Sources said the mosques were being used as madrassas and that is why the home department was concerned about the illegally built places of worship.
The Senior Superintendent Police, Special Branch, Rao Saleem, claims 99% of these mosques are built on state property.
He added that the concerned department had been informed and action against miscreants would be taken soon. Local officials, who wished to remain anonymous, told Daily Express, that after the illegal construction of mosques, religious groups exert pressure on district officials and high-ups in the provincial government to allocate these lands to them for the same purpose.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.