The assassination of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti has led to an increase in efforts to clamp down on extremist elements. Sources on Monday said that the interior ministry had sought records of illegally constructed madrassas (seminaries) from Islamabad administration and the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
The official also gave reference of two letters written by the ministry to the relevant authorities on January 31, 2011 and February 19, 2011 in this connection.
Over 300 madrassas are functional in the capital at the moment. An official of Islamabad administration informed The Express Tribune that except for four madrassas constructed during General Ziaul Haq’s regime, the rest were set up illegally in connivance with authorities.
The four built in Zia era are Jamia Faridia in E-7 sector, Jamia Slafia in H-8, Jamia Muhammdia Ghosia at Chak Shahzad and Jamia-tul-Kosar near H-8.
According to official record, Wafaqul Madaris of Deoband school of thought has around 80 to 100 madrassas. Tanzeem-ul-Madaris of Barelvi school of thought has 50 to 60 and Wafaqul Madaris Al Salfia of Ahl-e-Hadith school of thought has around 20 to 30 madrassas. Moreover, there are 15 to 20 madrassas of Rabta-ul-Madaris of Jammat-e-Islami, while Wafaqul Madaris Al Shia of Fiq-e-Jaafria has 10 to 15 madrassas.
Wafaqul Madaris dropped the name of its sole legally constructed madrassa, Jamia Faridia, due to Lal Mosque administration’s hard stance that lead to a deadly military operation back in 2007. The representatives of different religious groups held that CDA had not allocated land at proper locations, as many mosques had been built on the banks of dirty drainage streams.
“Wafaqul Madaris and other religious groups have built numerous mosques and seminaries in the city without obtaining permission,” mentioned a report prepared by the Islamabad Capital Territory. CDA has allocated land for mosques in every sector but the religious groups were also building seminaries on unauthorised land. Previously constructed buildings are being expanded beyond permitted levels, the report held.
The report said some of the mosques and seminaries are established on roadsides, some on green belts and some have violated building by laws of the CDA.
In some cases the CDA had allowed only two rooms for a mosque but the management constructed huge buildings. A senior official of the CDA’s enforcement directorate said the authority was hesitant in taking action fearing reaction from religious clerics and students of different madrassas.
Spokesman of Wafaqul Madaris, Qari Abdul Qudus said, “We directed our sister organisations to follow the law of the land and confine themselves to the educational activities. But because of discretionary attitude on the part of authorities, these mosques and seminaries were built without following proper procedure.”
He further said it was the responsibility of the government to coordinate with clerics committee comprising officials of religious ministry, Wafaqul Madaris, Auqaf department and other relevant groups to address the issue.
Responding to a question, Qudus said the problem was not being treated properly and requests were not being entertained. “With the rise in population the requirements for more markets and mosques also increased,” he added.
The city administration however threw around the responsibility of allowing the construction and not taking timely action.
Director General Planning Ghulam Sarwar Sindhu of CDA told The Express Tribune that it was task of ICT to remove illegal construction. He said a committee was constituted in this connection under the head of Deputy Commissioner (DC) Islamabad, while CDA was only part of surveys in which the number of illegal construction was identified.
When contacted, DC Amir Ali Ahmad offered to provide magisterial support to the CDA if it launched an operation against such mosques. He said that land for a mosque has to be allocated by the CDA and cleared by police and intelligence agencies before it can be constructed within prescribed parameters.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2011.
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