Non local imams face eviction in Peshawar


Express April 15, 2010

PESHAWAR: While echoes of reports that non-local prayer leaders have been told to leave Peshawar reverberated in the senate, the provincial government denied issuing any such notices.

Talking to reporters at a function in Peshawar, NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that the government had not issued any notice to evict prayer leaders belonging to other districts of the province from the provincial capital. He said that such decisions “are always taken by the provincial cabinet and media reports to the contrary are based on some misunderstanding.”

However, Qazi Habibullah, an imam at a mosque in the Gulbahar No IV area, told The Express Tribune that he was served a notice on April 10 which asked him to “leave the city within seven days”. Citing the notice, issued by the Gulbahar police station, he said he was given only a week “to leave the mosque or else legal action will be taken against me.”

Habibullah, who belongs to Chitral district, said that the letter, bearing the signature of an ASI of Gulbahar police station, was delivered to his mosque by a police official. The issue was first highlighted by a local daily, which published a news report on Wednesday in which a Jamat-e-Islami (JI) leader and a former Member National Assembly from Chitral district had asked the provincial government to 'revoke the notification within 24 hours'.

According to the report, while addressing a press conference at the Chitral Press Club he said that prayer leaders from Chitral and Dir districts would be the hardest-hit if the notification was not rescinded. In Islamabad, the issue was raised in the senate by JUI-F’s Haji Ghulam Ali, a former Peshawar Nazim.

The move was also criticised by senators belonging to the Awami National Party (ANP), whose spokesman Zahid Khan termed the decision wrong. Meanwhile, activists of the JUI-F protested in front of the Peshawar Press Club against the notification. Protesters, led by the JUI-F Peshawar district chief Maulana Attaul Haq Dervish, carried banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the so-called ‘eviction orders’.

Speakers addressing the rally said that such decisions were being taken “only to appease the United States.”

Religious leaders are upset with what they call a victimisation but the government and the police are denying this.

The Senior Superintendent of Police (Coordination) Peshawar, Sher Akbar Khan, told The Express Tribune said he did not know anything about the issuance of the notice and said that police did not need to issue such a notice to evict illegal immigrants.

The police officials say that this decision is taken at a political level and the work is to implement the orders that are issued to them. Meanwhile, the Peshawar chapter of the JUI-F has convened a meeting of non-local prayer leaders at the Dar-uloom Sarhad on Thursday in a bid to chalk out a strategy to deal with the emerging situation.

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