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PU VC refuses to meet Shia students over expulsions

LAHORE, Aug 22: A delegation of six Shia students who wanted to meet the Punjab University vice chancellor over the issue of separate prayers for Shia students were stopped by PU officials from meeting the VC on Tuesday, Farhan Mehdi, spokesman of the Imamia Student's Organisation (ISO), said.

The Shia students had announced that they would decide the strategy for protests after meeting the VC. The six students Mehdi, Syed Hakim (Halley College), Zaman Hussain (History Department), Muhammad Zafarullah Kazmi (Microelectronics' Department), Bilal Jafri (Halley College), Mohamed Yaqoob (Hailey College) and Abdul Hassan had gone to the VC's office but were stopped by Student Adviser Chaudhry Nazir Ahmad and Resident Officer (RO) Zahid Karim Khan from entering the office, Mehdi said.

He said the officials pushed and dragged them out of the office. He said the officials also warned them that they would be expelled if they did not stop demanding separate prayers. He said some teachers too were opposing separate prayers because they supported the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT).

The RO, however, denied the allegation of manhandling the students. He said he had tried to tell the students that their demand was wrong. He said the VC had set up a committee to settle the issue. He said the committee consisted of Hall council chairman Azhar Ikram, Student Advisor Nazir Ahmad, RO Zahid Karim Khan, Hall Council deputy chairman Sami Uzair Khan, Syndicate member Dr Harris Rasheed and Mosque Committee chairman Abul Wafa. Khan said the VC had said that the committee's decision would be final. He added that the committee would not allow Shia students to pray behind separate prayer leaders because it would promote sectarianism.

Student Advisor Ahmad said the PU would not change its policies and all sects would pray together as had been the practice previously. He said once separate prayers for Shias started, all sects would demand separate prayers and the varsity's peace would be disturbed.

Hall Council chairman Ikram said the varsity was trying to stop the students from demanding separate prayers. He said if the expelled students promised not to demand separate prayers, their cases would be referred to the VC and the committee would recommend that they be allowed to stay in PU hostels. He said the varsity did not like to disturb students and was trying to provide a study-focussed environment.

Meanwhile, about 125 Shia students prayed separately on Tuesday in Hostel 17. Mehdi said that after maghrib (dusk prayer), the Shia students pledged to continue praying separately and that if the authorities tried to stop them, they would launch countrywide protests. Daily times
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