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Contentious issues not resolved: Lal Masjid

April 23, 2007

ISLAMABAD, April 22: Lal Masjid clerics on Sunday said contentious issues between them and the government had not been settled, adding that the standoff would continue till the enforcement of Sharia in the country.

“It has been reported wrongly in the media that the issues between the Lal Masjid administration and the government have been settled and the two sides are close to an agreement,” deputy in-charge of the mosque and Jamia Hafsa Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi told Dawn.

He said it had also been wrongly attributed to Pakistan Muslim League president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain that girl students of Jamia Hafsa had agreed to end occupation of the children’s library, provided the seven mosques demolished by the Capital Development Authority were reconstructed. “We did not give any such assurance to Chaudhry Shujaat and, therefore, we will not evacuate the library unless Sharia is enforced in the country,” he said.

Maulana Ghazi said the mosque administration had given two demands to the government – reconstruction of the demolished mosques and enforcement of Sharia. “We want rebuilding of the razed mosques as a goodwill gesture from the government to initiate dialogue on enforcement of Islamic system.”

However, he said, the government was not serious in reconstructing the demolished mosques and giving false assurances that the mosques were being reconstructed at their original places. “Unless these mosques are reconstructed and prayers are offered there, we cannot say something is seriously being done by the government on the mosques’ issue,” he said.

The CDA, as part of a government move to pacify the Lal Masjid clerics, had provided alternative plots for construction of three mosques. But Lal Masjid clerics dismissed the proposal.

Last week, the government provided alternative land for two demolished mosques under an assurance given by the PML chief to the administration of the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa. The plots had been provided in Sector I-8 and the Murree Road Orchard Scheme.

According to the administration of the Lal Masjid, the local administration had demolished seven mosques in different areas in Islamabad in the recent past. They were: Masjid Amir Hamza on the Murree Road; Masjid Sayedna Ibn-i-Abbas on the Orchard Road; Masjid Amir Hamza at F-10/3; Masjid Syedna Ali at G-10; Masjid Umar Bin Abdul Aziz at PM Staff Colony; Masjid Safha at I-8; and Masjid Umar at G-8 Markaz.

The CDA had reportedly declared 87 mosques in the city unauthorised because they were constructed without approval from the authority and without meeting basic requirements.

The government last month conceded its defeat in the prevailing confrontation with ulema on the issue of demolition of mosques by allowing reconstruction of one of the demolished mosques, Masjid Amir Hamza, at its original location.

A committee comprising representatives of hardline ulema of Lal Masjid and government officials also met on Saturday to settle the issue of the mosques but the meeting remained inconclusive after the ulema refused to get alternative land and demanded that mosques should be rebuilt at their previous places.

At the start of the meeting, the CDA said that except Masjid Amir Hamza on the Murree Road, the authority had not demolished any other mosque in Islamabad. The ulema expressed resentment over this and threatened to boycott the meeting.

Later, members of the committee visited Masjid Amir Hamza in F-10/3, Masjid Amna at Shakarparian and Masjid Umar bin Abdul Aziz at PM Staff Colony. Representatives of the Lal Masjid identified the sites of the demolished mosques but CDA officials did not agree with them.