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Restrictions put on firebrand ulema

November 19, 2012

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RAWALPINDI, Nov 18: Citing intelligence, the district administration has banned 28 firebrand ulema from delivering speeches/sermons at religious gatherings and 24 others from entering Rawalpindi for 60 days starting from Muharram 1.

The 28 religious personalities from the Deobandi and Barelvi sects belonged to the Rawalpindi district. The intelligence reports said their objectionable speeches/sermons may lead to law and order situation during Muharram, a month which often sees sectarian violence.

Of the 24 ulema whose entry into the district has been banned, 14 are from the Shia community, said a spokesman for the district coordination officer (DCO).

An additional inspector general (AIG) of the police special branch in a report informed the Punjab home department that resurgence of banned and Jehadi groups also needed to be checked to ensure peace during Muharram.

The report added: “An alarming increase has been noticed in the processions and Majalis during Muharram despite a ban on new innovations.” It said as many as 51 Majalis and 31 processions were held without permission in Kasur and Sheikhupura last year. Besides, 115 incidents of ‘time violations’ of processions/Majalis were noticed in Bahawalpur and Faisalabad while 10 incidents of route violations were reported throughout the province. Among those who violated the ban included five ulema from the Sunni and two from Shias community.

The special branch report suggested that notices should be issued to organisers of new events regarding route and time violations and sureties must be sought from firebrand speakers. The local organisations should be involved in security arrangements, it added.

Regional Police Officer Rawalpindi Mohammad Zubair, City Police Officer Azhar Hameed Khokhar and Punjab home department have also been intimated by the DCO, Saqib Zafar, about the gagging orders issued against the 28 persons.

A list containing the names of the ulema/khattebs has also been sent to the authorities concerned.

When the district coordination officer (DCO) was contacted and asked about the ban, he said: “Gagging orders for the 28 ulema were issued in the light of intelligence gathered from different sources.”

He said such bans were imposed only after the provincial government or the district administration believed that the persons would deliver speeches/sermons at public or religious gatherings against each other that may create law and order situation.

However, the order said the persons banned from delivering speeches can approach the provincial government against the restriction.

In another related move, the home department has directed the inspector general of the police and all the regional police officers to ensure foolproof security for non-Shia congregations taking place during Murharram when the law enforcement agencies will be focusing on providing security to the Muharram processions/majalis.

And it should also be ensured that such processions are not held in proximity to those taken out by the Shia community, it added.

In the meantime, removal of objectionable and offensive wall chalking and posters has been started in the city while police crackdown against vehicles with fake green registration plates is likely to be launched on Monday.