RAWALPINDI: Fearing violence, the local administration and police have asked the administration of the Taleemul Quran seminary in Raja Bazaar to close for three days on Ashura.
The seminary, which was reopened on Sept 30, is along the main mourning procession route that will be taken out in Muharram.
In 2013, the seminary, a mosque and a fabric market in Raja Bazaar were torched when violence broke out on Ashura. The provincial government spent Rs240 million to rebuild the seminary, mosque and 100 shops in the fabric market.
Seminary administration says it must take local religious scholars on board before responding to local admin’s request
Construction was completed on the seminary, mosque and market, and they were handed over to the seminary’s administration and traders in 2016. The seminary was inaugurated days before Muharram began, and Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Mohammad Yousaf was invited as chief guest.
The chief of the Taleemul Quran seminary, Maulana Ashraf Ali, told Dawn: “City Police Officer (CPO) Israr Abbasi asked the seminary administration to vacate the seminary for three days beginning Muharram 10, saying the situation in the country will be critical in the coming days.”
He said the request was a simple one, but the administration sought three days to respond as the city’s religious scholars needed to be taken on board before a decision is made.
“We started consultations with religious scholars and seminary teachers on whether to accept the local administration’s request,” he said, adding that it would be difficult for the seminary administration to give students holidays.
Maulana Qazi Abdul Rasheed, the secretary general of the Wafaqul Madaris Pakistan and administrator of the Madrisah Darul Uloom Farooqia Dhamial, told Dawn local religious scholars have suggested that the government not close down the seminary on Ashura, as the move would affect the studies of the Taleemul Quran’s students.
“Religious scholars of the garrison city are cooperating with the government to maintain peace, and the police should devise better security arrangements while taking religious scholars of all sects into confidence to avoid any untoward situation,” he said.
Mr Rasheed said the seminary’s Raja Bazaar building was under construction for two years, and students were shifted to a nearby seminary for a few days in Muharram. But he argued that since the construction of the seminary and mosque has now been completed, there is no reason to close down the seminary for a few days.
He said the local administration believed that Raja Bazaar is a congested area, and security arrangements needed to be made accordingly, which is why the seminary was asked to close.
When asked about rumours about demands that the procession route be changed instead of closing down Taleemul Quran, Mr Rasheed said no demands had been made to have the procession route altered, and religious scholars were cooperating with the provincial government to maintain peace and brotherhood.
An official from the City District Government Rawalpindi told Dawn intelligence agencies had reported that students in seminaries would create problems, so all mosques and seminaries in the area have been put under surveillance.
“On the route of the Muharram procession, there are over six hot spots where a sectarian clash may erupt. Taleemul Quran is the only seminary and in 2013, sectarian violence erupted,” the official said.
He said the Bohar Bazaar mosque in Trunk Bazaar, commonly known as Maulvi Abdul Sattar Wali Masjid, was also a hotspot, but with the ban on the use of loudspeakers and increased security, the area would be less problematic.
He said the seminary and its administration were accommodated in the past few years, and all the construction was carried out as per the wishes of the seminary administration, so there was no reason not to accept the local administration’s request to close the seminary for a few days.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2016