Pakistanis Protest Mosque Demolitions

For three weeks on, hundreds of Pakistani students are staging high-profile protests in a stand off against the government's defiance to rebuild mosques demolished over claims that they were built on state land.

Pakistanis Protest Mosque Demolitions

"We will protect the madrassah (religious schools) and mosques," 19-year-old Bilal Abbasi, one of the students protesting at the Lal Mosque in the heart of Islamabad, told the paper.

Female students of the Islamic seminary, Jamia Hafsa, have also vowed not to break their three-week old sit-in at Islamabad's main children's library unless the government rebuilds six mosques previously demolished over the past few years.

The government, however, stayed adamant over the students' demands, offering to rebuild only one of the mosques.

But the students say they are in no mode for compromise.

Veil-clad students have formed an action committee and covered the library building with banners condemning the government.

They also called the government to withdraw demolition notices against 10 other mosques and legalize all 81 mosques they say have been deemed illegal.

Scholars ruled out that the protest would turn violent.

"Students are students. They are young and emotional," Abdul Rashid Ghazi, a Pakistani scholar, said defending the girls' stand.

Ghazi, who runs with his brother both the Jamia Hafsa seminary and the Lal Mosque, described the protests as totally justified.

"Everyone has a right to protest."

The number of students attending madrassahs has fallen sharply as the government launched massive crackdowns after 9/11 attacks on the US.

There are around 12,000 madrassahs in Pakistan, often offering free religious education and board for more than one million Pakistani children, especially in areas neglected by state education services.


Minister of Religious Affairs Ijaz ul-Haq backed the students.

"Normally, in Islam when you demolish a mosque, you have to take the consent of the Ulama, or religious scholars," he told the paper.

"In this case, there was no legal map."

The minister said the government should have respected the people's demands and stopped its long-standing drive of demolishing mosques.

"There was a lot of unrest among the people," Haq added.

Ghazi, an outspoken critic of Pakistan's support of the US war on terror, echoed, saying that building a mosque on public land was neither un-Islamic nor illegal.

Many in Pakistan see the government's steps like limiting permissions for mosques as a part of President Pervez Musharraf's liberal policies.

Critics of the front line ally of the United States insist that Musharraf's policies are cosmetic and do not actually reflect true tendency towards moderation.

A new survey by Gallop Pakistan, one of most prestigious survey firms in the country, showed that about 71 percent of Pakistanis trust scholars against only 29 percent who consider secular politicians more trustworthy.

The South Asian country makes the world's second-largest Islamic population after Indonesia.

Muslims account for 95 percent of Pakistan's total 160 million population.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16