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RAWALPINDI: The mosque and the cloth market in Raja Bazaar, which were burnt during the Ashura violence and subsequently pulled down for being dangerous, stood on the disputed land of a Hindu temple, it has been learnt.

An official of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) told Dawn that the department was the owner of the land.

He said after Pakistan came into being, the mosque was built on a piece of land surrounded by the temple.

During the 1980s, the ETPB handed over an additional piece of land to the seminary on the directives of the then military dictator, Ziaul Haq and the clerics expanded the building.

“Total 103 shops were constructed on Khasra No U-1310 and U1310/A under the name of Madina Market and 22 shops on the temple property, U-1330, 1331 and 1332.” He added that the issue was taken up with the federal secretary religious affairs and minorities in 1985 but it was still not resolved. He admitted that the ETBP did not pursue the matter fearing a religious backlash.

When the mosque and cloth market were burnt in the sectarian clash, rescue officials broke a building in front of the plaza on the Hamilton Road side to enter the premises.

The temple, built on 12x14 square feet, became visible after the demolition of the burnt-down building.

Jag Mohan Arora, a leader of the Hindu community, said he never visited the temple because it remained hidden among the buildings.

“This is very strange that the temple remained out of the sight of the clerics. I was of the view that the temple had already been pulled down because over 10 temples in the city were demolished after the Babri mosque incident in 1992,” he said.

In a report, the ETPB Rawalpindi chapter stated that it owned total two residential properties and six commercial units, comprising the madressah, mosque and the cloth market.

The residential area of the two buildings owned by the ETPB was on rent of Rs590 per month and Rs900 per month, four commercial units adjoining the temple area rented out on Rs93 per month to Rs3,401 per month.

However, the area comprising the madressah, mosque and the cloth market, including Madina Market and Al-Umar Plaza, were under litigation since 1985.

“At present, the case is pending with the federal secretary,” the report said.

When contacted, ETBP assistant administrator Asif Khan said the land on which the mosque and madressah had been built was disputed.

He added that not the whole land but some of its portions given to the seminary during the Zia era were disputed.

Maulana Ashraf Ali, the caretaker of the Taleemul Quran Madressah, told Dawn that his late father Maulana Ghulamullah Khan had established the mosque and seminary after partition.

“Hindus gave their property to my farther before leaving for India and I have all the documents. The land of the mosque is not disputed nor is the mosque built on the temple land. If we had any bad intention, how could the temple remain intact,” he said.