Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

12 July 2020, Sunday, Vol 1, No. 75

Pakistan This Week

Lal Masjid Maulana returns to occupy another seminary. State refers the construction of temple to the CII

PR Daily Brief | D. Suba Chandran

Lal Masjid Maulana returns again; the administration yields to him, again.
In the News
On the night of 6 July, the Lal Masjid fame Maulana Abdul Aziz along with his wife and students (from Jamia Hafsa) occupied another seminary – Jamia Fareedia in Islamabad (block E-7). He also announced the removal of seminary’s principal Mr Ghaffar, and started another crisis, as he did in February 2020 with the Lal Masjid. The police blocked the seminary.
Dawn reported Maulana’s son in law saying that Jamia Fareedia was built by Maulana Aziz’s grandfather in the 1970s and the current principal Mr Ghaffar along with the government were trying to take over the seminary and remove Aziz. (“E-7 seminary in Islamabad becomes site of unexpected conflict,” Dawn, 7 July 2010). According to news reports, Aziz appointed Ghaffar to administer Jamia Fareedia, but the former lost his control over the later, and also to the seminary.
The government through the Ulema negotiated with the Maulana; on 10 July, Aziz had left Jamia Fareedia and moved back to Jamia Hafsa.
Issues in the background
First is the confidence of Maulana Aziz to occupy a State-owned mosque in Islamabad and declare himself to be its khateeb. During January-February 2020, the Maulana entered the Lal Masjid, along with the girl students to take possession of the premise, and made himself the khateeb. The State cordoned off the mosque, and started to negotiate with Maulana Aziz. (“Tense situation prevails as Maulana Aziz occupies Lal Masjid,” Dawn, 8 February 2020). His primary demand then was: "he should be recognised as the khateeb (prayer leader) of Lal Masjid and the government should pay Rs30 million in lieu of the construction cost of Jamia Hafsa in H-11 and allotment of a new plot in the CDA limits against the cancelled H-11 plot.” (“Lal Masjid standoff persists as Maulana Aziz refuses to budge on demands,” Dawn, 21 February 2020)
Second is the repeated failure of the capital administration to maintain its writ over the mosque and the land around it. When Maulana Aziz and his female students occupied the Jamia Hafsa entering into it by breaking the seal, in February 2020, the administration instead of coming down on him, allowed the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) to negotiate a settlement with Maulana Aziz. Later, in February, Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi was asked to negotiate with Maulana Aziz. According to Dawn, Maulana Ashrafi met with the Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmad Shah, before meeting Maulana Aziz. (“Lal Masjid standoff persists as Maulana Aziz refuses to budge on demands,” Dawn, 21 February 2020).
In June 2019, the administration tried the same thing, when Maulana Aziz occupied the mosque with his female students. The district commissioner approached the Ulema to mediate with him; following which a three months ban was imposed on Maulana Aziz from not entering into the mosque. (“Lal Masjid’s khateeb removed, Maulana Aziz’s entry banned for three months," Dawn, 26 June 2019) It did the same thing in July as well; approached the Ulema to mediate with Maulana Aziz.
Third is the presence of armed men around Maulana Aziz, with heavy weapons. In February 2020, the situation became tense, with armed men (to protect Maulana Aziz) inside the mosque, and the State forces outside it. Though the weapons were licensed, does a prayer leader needs machine guns as protection?
Fourth, is the ownership over the mosques and seminaries. Mosques and seminaries have become a source of power to whoever controls them. It provides access to students. It also provides access to the administration. It also provides access to a larger audience. It also provides access to funds from within and outside Pakistan.

Constructing a temple in Islamabad: Legal and Political trouble/support
In the news
On 7 July, the Islamabad High Court observed that the construction of a place of worship requires mandatory approval of the regulator (in this case, the Capital Development Authority in Islamabad); however, the Court, dismissed objections over the government allotment of a plot to build a temple in Islamabad Sector H.
Strong support to the construction of the temple, came from Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, the Chairman of Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC). On 10 July, he said: "We denounce the Controversy over construction of the temple. This [making it controversial] by extremist clerics is not correct. PUC will call a meeting and will also present its point of view to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).”
According to Dawn, “the government allotted the plot measuring 3.89 kanals for the temple in January 2017. The plot was handed over to the Islamabad Hindu Panchayat (IHP) in 2018.” (“IHC disposes of pleas against Hindu temple construction,” Dawn, 8 July 2020)
The Capital Development Authority, earlier during the first week of July, had stopped the construction of the temple, as there was no formal building plan that has been approved by the administration. However, the bigger opposition has come from the religious right and the radical groups. They have opposed the construction of a Hindu temple in an Islamic State. A section has gone and vandalised the compound wall that has been erected by the temple administration.
During late June 2020, a Parliamentary delegation of the religious minorities approached the Prime Minister for his support to build the first temple in Islamabad. Imran Khan has approved a grant of 100 million rupees towards the same. Seeing the opposition, the Prime Minister has now approached the Council of Islamic Ideology to find out whether the State can provide support to construct a temple in Pakistan.
Issues in the background
The primary issue is the opposition from the religious right and the radical groups that are against providing any political, legal and societal space to the religious minorities inside Pakistan. A section is against not only the Hindus but also include the Christians, Ahmadiyya and even the Shias.
Second is the one step forward – two steps backward strategy by the State. In this case, the PTI government saw this (construction of a temple in Islamabad) as an international message from Pakistan underlining tolerance and support for the minorities. The spirit behind the PTI government is to allow the construction of the temple should have been based on the same.
Third is the repeated surrender of the State when the radical groups go on an offensive relating to any of its strategies. The same thing happened to the PPP government in Sindh, when it tried to introduce an act against child marriage in Sindh so that forced conversions could be prevented.
Fourth, is the support at the streel level. There is a section, however small within Pakistan to stand up against the radical onslaught on the minorities. Unfortunately, they have a better presence online and in the social media, than in the print and electronic media, and most importantly, on the streets. This is where the radical groups win – on the streets.

Also during the week...
In Brief
Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez and Sukanya Bali

FATF action plan to be completed at the earliest: Shaikh
On 10 July, adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh stated that Pakistan would ensure that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Action Plan will be completed at the earliest by increasing the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime. At a virtual meeting on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI), Dr Shaikh commented on the status of FATF Action Plan stating that Pakistan had already addressed 14 out of 27 items. Further, the he stated that Pakistan had made considerable progress in addressing the recommended actions of Mutual Evaluation Report, implementation of Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financial Terrorism (AML/CFT) measures on DNFBPs and others. Further he stated that the AML Act was amended to include tax offences as predicate offences. (APP, “Pakistan ensuring completion of FATF action plan: Shaikh,” Dawn, 11 July 2020)

The US places ban on PIA flights
On 9 July, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) expressed concern over flight safety and revoked the permission granted to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from operating special flights from the United States. The email to the Pakistani authorities stated: “this revocation is effective immediately.” This action comes after a statement from Pakistan authorities stated that several PIA pilots could be possessing dubious licences/credentials. A PIA spokesperson commented on this decision and described it as a “setback to the carrier.” (Anwar Iqbal, Mohammad Asghar, “US too places ban on PIA flights,” Dawn, 10 July 2020)

SC tells Railways not to play with the lives of people
On 9 July, the Supreme Court advised the Government of Pakistan to consider revising the Railway's Secretariat from top to bottom to ensure that the Railways operate in Pakistan safely. The remarks were made during the hearing of the suo moto notice regarding the condition of Pakistan Railways before a two-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed accompanied by Justice Ijazul Ahsan. Further, the court added the increasing accidents have been caused because the Railways were not being operated as per the rules and manual of the Railways. Further, the bench stated measures have to be taken immediately to ensure safety, warning that the Railways should not play with the lives of the people and Railways properties. (Shahid Rao, “Do not play with lives, Supreme Court tells Railways,” The Nation, 10 July 2020)

Gradual economic recovery in the next fiscal year for Pakistan: IMF
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a report titled “Policy Actions Taken by Countries” which reviewed the various steps taken by Pakistan since March to deal with the Covid-19 crisis has stated that a gradual recovery in Pakistan is expected in the fiscal year 2021 as the country’s economy reopens. Further, the report stated comments on the efforts made by the federal government and the province who since mid-April have been gradually easing lockdown arrangements, by allowing ‘low-risk industries’ to restart operation and ‘small retail shops’ to reopen with newly developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Further, the report highlights the various other measures taken by both federal and provincial governments to ease the economic impact of this pandemic. (“IMF predicts economic recovery in Pakistan next year,” Dawn, 10 July 2020)

World Bank policy brief: COVID-19 and Tourism in South Asia
World Bank policy brief on, ‘COVID-19 and Tourism in South Asia’, estimate a loss of $3.64 billion in Pakistan gross domestic product and has already risked 880,000 jobs in the tourist sector. The brief highlighted the impact on the travel and tourism industry with across 47.7 million jobs loss in South Asia. It states, ‘Domestic tourism and drive-to-market will be first to recover, and the intraregional travel between “Covid-19 safe zone” will be next’. (“Covid-19 may cause $3.64bn loss to GDP: World Bank report”Dawn, 10 July 2020)

Khulbhushan Jadav refuses to file a review petition in IHC, says, Pakistani officials
On 8 July, during a press conference in Islamabad, Director General (South Asia & SAARC) Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry and Additional Attorney General Ahmed Irfan said that Kulbhushan Jadhav has refused to appeal to the Islamabad High Court to upend his military court conviction and death sentence, despite the offer to do so; and instead has chosen to apply for a mercy petition. (“Indian spy Jadhav refused to file review petition in IHC despite Pakistan's offer, officials say,” Dawn, 8 July 2020) Pakistan FO says the mercy petition is not connected with the review or reconsideration plea and is a separate process.

PPP to launch a movement for the creation of Seraiki province
While addressing a press conference PPP Deputy Parliamentary leader in Punjab Assembly Syed Ali Haider Gilani announced that they would be launching an agitation for the creation of Seraiki province once the issue of the pandemic settles down. Further, the minister stated that Seraiki nationalists would be invited to join the movement for the protection of their national rights and identity, along with PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who would also participate in the movement. Further, he added that the PPP is ready to fight for the people of South Punjab. (“PPP to launch movement for Seraiki province,” The News International, 9 July 2020)

Baldia Factory Fire No Accident
With Sindh government publicizing the Baldia Factory Fire report, it is clear that that occurrence was a “blatant act of terrorism” and not an accident. It was an extortion attempt that went disastrously wrong. The author says that a report of such an incient mustn’t take eight long years to be declassified. The lack of immediate action has caused the orchestrator Hamad Siddiqui, former in-charge of the MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee to be an absconder till date. The article says that the incident will always remain a mark of the dark era of Karachi. (“A Blatant Act Of Terrorism,” The Nation, 7 July 2020)

SSM wants PTI to fulfil promise of Seraiki province
On 6 July, during a press conference, Seraikistan Suba Mahaz chairman Khawaja Ghulam Farid Koreja, co-chairman Zahor Dhreeja urged the government to create the PTI promised Seraiki province. The said SSM was an alliance of seven nationalist parties; called SPAS an eyewash which would soon fail; and demanded government constitution of Parliamentary Commission dedicated to new provinces as per the mandate. (“PTI urged to fulfil promise of creationof Seraiki province,” The News International, 7 July 2020)

"Providing assistance to the poor through targeted subsidies is a top priority. The Ehsaas program is the government's flagship program for poverty alleviation that needs to be extended to more beneficiaries"

-  Imran Khan on the need for an out of box solution for economic growth (The News)


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