Encroachment in God’s name: City admin dilly-dallying to buy time instead of enforcing writ

Lal Masjid cleric says Jamia Hafsa rebuilding will start next week.


Azam Khan December 24, 2011

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad administration on Friday succeeded in buying one-week time from the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) management for rebuilding of Jamia Hafsa, a girls’ seminary that was razed to the ground in a military operation in 2007, averting an imminent clash between the ICT administration and the mosque management.

The mosque management had earlier announced that it would lay foundation stone of the seminary on encroached land near the mosque on Friday.

The land belongs to the Education Ministry, according to an official record of the Capital Development Authority.

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Amir Ali Ahmad said that a consensus-based decision in line with government policy and the Supreme Court’s verdict would be taken for the reconstruction of the seminary within seven days.

Sharia expert and Supreme Court advocate Dr Aslam Khaki said there is no need for construction of a madrassah on the site of a public library. “Islam does not permit the construction of a mosque or seminary on encroached land,” he said.

“The government should allocate land for the seminary at some other place. If the government is not in a position to, then I am ready to donate land for the purpose in Bhara Kahu, adding that he is not opposed to the madrassah itself, but the illegal procedure employed, and noting that the Supreme Court’s judgment was not in favour of any single party.

“Instead of using its authority, the capital administration wants to engage the Lal Masjid management in negotiations as a delaying tactics,” a senior official requesting not to be named said, quickly adding that “if reconstruction work on the seminary is started, we will exercise our powers to stop it.”

Another official said that the issue was very sensitive and the administration feared that if the Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz remained adamant there will be a law and order situation.

On the other hand, Aziz claimed that the official record has no significance after the apex court’s verdict, and that the administration is duty-bound to reconstruct the seminary. However, the Islamabad administration officials said that the Supreme Court’s decision was being misinterpreted by Aziz.

In a furious sermon on Friday, Aziz accepted the one-week extension deadline set by the administration, while adding that, “We already gave them ample time for the purpose, and after one week we will implement court’s verdict by laying stone foundation of the seminary,” he said.

“I don’t understand the attitude of the government towards madrassas; if the administration can allot thousands of acres for Quaid-i-Azam University, then why not for a madrassah,’’ he asked.

He announced that next Friday, people from across the country would participate in the foundations-tone laying ceremony. He called on his supporters to take part in the ceremony without any fear of the government, police or the armed forces.

After Friday prayers, a large number of burqa-clad women gathered at the site of the defunct seminary. They were holding placards in their hands inscribed with slogans against the government for delaying reconstruction.

Wafaqul Madaris spokesperson Hafiz Abdul Qadus when contacted said that the Supreme Court verdict will be followed, while another official of the Wafaqul Madaris blamed the negligence of the administration in not exercising its authority. Jamia Hafsa is not affiliated with Wafaqul Madaris but if they start its reconstruction, we will extend affiliation to it, he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2011.

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