Lal Masjid administration ‘reclaims’ ownership of Jamia Hafsa plot

Updated 12 Mar 2018

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The Lal Masjid administration has installed a signboard declaring the land to be part of the mosque. — White Star
The Lal Masjid administration has installed a signboard declaring the land to be part of the mosque. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: The Lal Masjid administration has ‘reclaimed’ land that once housed Jamia Hafsa and a children’s library.

The mosque administration has installed a signboard on the land next to the mosque, calling it their property, while the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has remained silent.

The Jamia Hafsa building and the library were demolished by the government following the military operation in 2007.

CDA yet to respond to signboard installed on plot adjacent to mosque

After the operation, the government and the mosque administration, led by Maulana Abdul Aziz, reached an agreement under which the CDA would provide an alternative site for the reconstruction of Jamia Hafsa.

The CDA has allotted 20 kanals of land for this in H-11, and construction is ongoing.

However, the Lal Masjid administration recently installed a board on the site, claiming that the land was the mosque’s property.

Hafiz Ihtesham Ahmed, a spokesperson for the mosque’s Shuhada Foundation, claimed: “As per our agreement with the government we can include this plot [where Jamia Hafsa once stood] in the Lal Masjid yard.”

While discussing the installation of the board, he added: “As per the agreement, ultimately this four kanal plot was to be made part of the mosque, but so far the CDA has not merged it with the mosque.”

When asked if the CDA, which is the custodian of land in the capital, was party to the aforementioned agreement, Mr Ahmed said it was not.

CDA spokesperson Malik Saleem, when asked about the agreement Mr Ahmed had referred to, said he had no knowledge of an agreement regarding the merging of the plot with the mosque.

“The land adjacent to Lal Masjid is the CDA’s property, and no one would be allowed to encroach upon it,” he said, adding that the authority also stopped efforts to construct on the land last year.

When asked why action had not been taken to remove the signboard if the land is the CDA’s property, Mr Saleem said they would look into it.

After the 2007 operation, the CDA had changed the master plan for the G-6 civic centre, erasing several plots adjacent to Lal Masjid and leaving the entire area an open space.

Previously, the plots were reserved for a children’s library, a gymnasium, an author’s corner and so on.

A CDA official who was part of the team that changed the sector’s master plan said that after the operation, the mosque administration had pressured the government to prevent the land next to the mosque from being used for any other purpose because a number of people were killed on the site.

He said the authority had changed the master plan to erase any uses for the land after directions from the federal government.

“If today the administration of Lal Masjid is claiming ownership of the land, that is not fair, because they had been claiming that the status of the entire adjacent land should be considered open space, like a graveyard. How can they now install any signboard there,” the official asked.

He added that if the mosque’s administration had no issue with land use, the CDA should take advantage of the situation and revise the master plan by placing commercial plots on the land next to the mosque to earn billions of rupees, which it could spend on development work in the city.

“We had removed our planned plots from the master plan to leave the area open, but if Lal Masjid has no issue with use of land, we can go for an auction of plots,” he said.

Lal Masjid was built in 1965, with Maulana Mohammad Abdullah as its khateeb, who built his residential quarters on land behind the mosque soon after.

A public children’s library was established next to the mosque in the 1980s, and in 1992, the Jamia Hafsa building was constructed by encroaching on 7,500 square yards designated for a women’s library and social club.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2018