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Rift widens between PU admin and Shia students

LAHORE, Aug 11: The rift between the Punjab University (PU) administration and Shia students widened on Friday as the PU administration failed to convince Shia students to offer their prayers under one prayer leader.

According to details, about 150 Shia students protested against the administration for not allowing them to offer their prayers along with Sunni students in the same mosque on the third consecutive day.

About 100 Shia students on Friday offered their prayers on the road as the authorities prevented them from offering prayers in the mosque of hostel 17. Shia students urged the PU administration to let them perform their prayers in a peaceful manner.

It has learnt that sectarianism had become a controversial issue on the campus and Shia students were protesting against the administration for the last three days. On Wednesday Shia students had entered the mosque of hostel 17 and offered their prayers.

A number of PU students and the PU authorities told Shia students not to offer their prayers in the mosque. On which the Shia students shouted slogans against the PU authorities.

After this incident the PU authorities had tightened security around hostel 17. A number of PU officials including Hall Council chairman Prof Azhar Akram and secretary Muhammad Akram, hostel superintendent Hassan Mubeen Alam were also seen on the occasion. These officials tried to stop the Shia students from offering their prayers.

Prof Akram said, "The Shia students had tried to offer their prayers in the past, but we did not allow them." He said if the Shia students were permitted to offer their prayers, it would disturb the university's environment. He said the PU authorities had not stopped them from offering their prayers, but it should be under one prayer leader. He said, "We are negotiating with the Shia students and it is expected that they will take back their demands."

PU students' advisor Chaudhry Nazir said it was a sensitive issue and the PU authorities were trying to settle it. He said the Shia students would not be allowed to say their prayers.

On condition of anonymity a PU teacher said this act of the Shia students could cause 'carnage' in the PU, as the PU was in the stronghold of Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT). He said, "In 1999 a tragic incident took place when some workers of the IJT stopped the Shia students from participating in a majlis. The incident later led to killings of four PU students."

A large number of Shia students were not happy with the PU administration. It was observed that Shia Ismaili students from Gilgit were also supporting Shia students against the discrimination of the PU authorities.

Akbar Shah, a student of master's, said the PU administration should not stop the Shia students from offering their prayers. He said, "To stop a Muslim from saying his/her prayers is against the preaching of Islam."

Imamia Students Organisation spokesman Syed Farhan said, "The PU authorities have gird up their loins not to allow us from offering our prayers." He said the PU administration had told the Shia students to say their prayers on roads. He said the PU authorities had issued expulsion notices to Shia students from hostels, as they asked the administration not to stop them from saying their prayers.

The rift had widened in January 2007 when some IJT activists had stopped the Shia students from offering their prayers. Muhammad Waseem, a law student, said, "The PU authorities had promised us in January that they will provide us separate place to perform our prayers." He said the Shia students had taken the issue before the PU administration, but to no avail.

PU registrar Dr Naeem Khan said the PU had provided equal opportunities to all sects to offer their prayers. He said, "We will not allow a single sect from taking mosques under its control. He said the Shia students could offer their prayers on the campus.

He said the PU administration had not sent any explanation letters and the PU would not expel any students for offering prayers. Daily times
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