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Jamia Hafsa, the hole is plugged

ISLAMABAD, July 13: The sprawling Jamia Hafsa seminary, a large portion of which was built illegally, became a place that people began to fear after its burqa clad vigilantes ventured on an anti-vice campaign months ago.

Residents said the cemented building, only patches of which were properly whitewashed, was an eyesore because of its haphazard construction and was used well by clerics to brainwash innocent girls from remote districts of the country into pursuing their personal agenda in the name of Islam.

Many parents who chose to send their daughters to the seminary that provided free boarding and lodging facilities, had no idea what went on within the confines of the building that stands next to the Lal Masjid.

A female journalist who visited the seminary a number of times said that the students almost always denied there was ammunition on the campus. "Probably, they were not aware it had been stocked up in the basements," she said.

The journalist, describing the atmosphere at the seminary, said martyrdom was on the minds of most students who often spoke about it in their conversations with her. "They used to ask each other, "Did you pray for my martyrdom today?" she said.

During a brief tour of the campus on one of her visits, she saw that there was no television set made available to the students. Asked why it was so, she was told by the school's principal Umme Hassan that watching television was a waste of time.

The parents or guardians of the girls were not allowed free access to the seminary and could talk to them only through a window, just as one were visiting a jail inmate. "If at all someone had to hand over something to a student, it had to be put on a revolving window," she pointed out.

The security on the campus was stepped up with visitors disallowed to take their cell phones inside when tension between the government and the Lal Masjid mullahs reached a fever pitch. "They had to be deposited at a makeshift reception from where the students pencilled in the particulars of the visitor," she explained.

Many parents have been upset over what transpired at the school and say they would now think twice before putting up their girls at a madrassah. "I had sent my daughter to Jamia Hafsa to study Islam and not to wage jihad," said Khan Muhammad of district Mansehra.

Now the fate of this bullet-riddled and blood-spattered building after being in the spotlight for months appears to hang in balance. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has already said it would bring down the encroached portions.

"That the place was used by militants is a separate matter, but we should not forget that the seminary had provided shelter to hundreds of girls from far-off places," said Sohail Ali Mobarik, a local resident. He agreed that illegal parts of the building be demolished.

A few others said that an Islamic university be established at the place where students could be taught religion on modern lines. They thought that instead of bringing down the building, it would be appropriate if it was upgraded and allowed to continue as a centre of Islamic teaching but under strict government watch. Daily times
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Updated: 14 Oct, 2014
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