Sectarianism at Punjab University
Lahore, Aug 13: The Punjab University (PU), already a stronghold of the Islami Jamiat Talaba
(the youth wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami), is seeing a new rift between the
administration and Shia students that, according to some, is 'provoking
sectarianism' on campus.
Shia students -who have been offering their
evening prayers on the road after they were not allowed to pray in the
university's mosques - believe that it is their right to pray behind their own
Insiders say the conflict developed over time and Shia students
have had problems for the last couple of years.
In mid-January, a few
days before the Islamic month of Muharram, around 60 Shia students decided to
say daily evening prayers collectively. On January 17, they complained that IJT
members stopped them.
A report on February 7 said some IJT
activists stopped Shia students from praying in the university mosque. The
students asked the university administration to allow them to pray on campus. An
application to the administration by Imamia Students Organisation, a Shia youth
group, said Shia students had been threatened. The IJT, in its own application,
accused Shia students of "fanning sectarianism".
The PU administration
intervened and stopped Shia students from praying collectively in campus
mosques, assuring them that the problem would be solved. Recently, Shia students
began to pray collectively again, saying the administration had not come up with
a solution so far.
Demanding equal rights, Shia students have also
suggested Sunni and Shia prayer leaders on alternative days. The administration
turned down the proposal.
PU registrar Prof Dr Muhammad Naeem Khan said
the mosques were made for all students, regardless of sects, on no single group
had an exclusive right to them.
Insiders say, however, several
administrative officials of the university, including very senior ones, are
known IJT sympathisers. The PU administration must stop such politics in the
name of religion, they say.
Four IJT activists were allegedly killed in
a shootout when ISO members were holding a majlis on the PU lawns in 1994 and
the IJT allegedly tried to stop them by force. The organisation commemorates the
incident by arranging special public gatherings every year. Daily times