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Prayer issue at PU mosque: Shia students stop praying on road after JI intervenes

LAHORE, Aug 15: Punjab University students of the Shia sect have stopped praying on the road outside the university hostels after Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) met on Tuesday to resolve an issue involving the PU administration and Shia students.

Sources said that JI MNA Fareed Paracha and JI MPA Syed Ehsanullah Waqas met senior ISO officials at the ISO head office on Muslim Road. The two parties assured resolving the issue within a week. Sources also said the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), which is the JI's youth wing, had denied involvement in the issue, but after senior JI leaders got involved, it seemed that the IJT had some hand in the issue.

The disagreement started when Shia students asked the PU administration to allow them to lead prayers at the university's mosque every alternate day. Normally, the IJT lead prayers and the Shia students stood behind them in congregation. The PU administration disallowed the idea and stopped Shia students from entering the mosque in fear of Shia-Sunni clashes on campus. In protest the Shia students started congregational prayers outside the road at the hostels.

The prayer issue has become quite large and Shia students all over the country have protested the PU administration's decision.

ISO spokesman Farhan Mehdi confirmed the visit by senior JI officials to ISO headquarters. He said the JI men met former ISO presidents Nasir Abbas Sherazi and Shaukat Abbas Sherazi and senior leader Akhtar Raza Khan.

He said JI leaders had asked the ISO to give them a month to resolve the situation, but the Shia students refused and demanded a resolution within a week. He also said that the issue had come up in January this year and that the administration had promised the Shia students to resolve the issue within six months, but it did not move over it. He said the JI leaders were unhappy at the prospects of Shia students praying on the road and decided to resolve the issue within a week.

Student Akbar Shah said Shia students had been praying in the PU mosque individually. He also said the IJT was not the only group in PU; there was the Mustafvi Students Movement (MSM), Anjuman-e-Talaba Islam (ATI) and students of the Ismaili sect.

He said Shia students had the support of all the other groups over the issue, as they (the other groups) also suffered at the hands of the IJT. He said that if the IJT failed to settle the issue within a week, larger protests would be launched all over PU.

Ehsanullah Waqas, who is also a PU Syndicate member, said that the issue was very sensitive and that the JI had requested Shia students to stop praying on the roads. He said Shia leaders were part of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and that all religious groups worked together. He said every student had the right to pray in a mosque and that the issue would soon be resolved after negotiation.

PU Registrar Dr Naeem Ahmad said that the administration did not know about the JI-ISO meeting, but that the move, if true, was appreciable on part of senior religious leaders. He said students of sects would not be treated hypocritically and that the university provided equal rights to all students. Daily times
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