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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 leader.

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
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