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Jamia Hafsa, children's library razed

ISLAMABAD, July 26: The Jamia Hafsa and the nearby children's library were razed as part of the government's three-day-long clean up operation, conducted amid tight security.

The bullet-riddled building of Jamia Hasfa, Lal Masjid's seminary for girls, had more than 75 rooms. Both the buildings were demolished after the National Engineering Services of Pakistan (Nespak) declared them 'unsafe' because of the heavy damage sustained during the fierce encounter between the troops and the militants.

The people of Islamabad, especially those living near the Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa complex, showed mixed reaction over the demolition.

Some 1,770 girl students were enrolled with the seminary.

The Jamia Hafsa's students illegally occupied the children's library on Jan 21 to protest against the demolition of some mosques that had been declared 'unauthorised' by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

After the incident, the seminary students violated the law by kidnapping several Chinese nationals, local women and security officials and threatened CDs shop owners.

They even resorted to burning government buildings in a bid to compel the government to 'enforce Sharia'.

Some religious organisations staged a demonstration to protest the razing of the Jamia Hasfa.

The residences of Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi were also bulldozed in the operation that began on Monday.

"We have hired heavy earth-moving machinery for the operation in which over 200 workers are taking part," Capital Development Authority's (CDA) Chairman Kamran Lashari said.

Meanwhile, an official said it was a joint operation being conducted by the CDA, Islamabad and Punjab police and Rangers under the supervision of military authorities. However, an interior ministry spokesman and the CDA claimed that the army had nothing to do with the demolition.

During the clean-up operation, the area around Lal Masjid was cordoned off and heavy contingents of security forces were deployed, greatly inconveniencing the residents of sector G-6 as police and Rangers' personnel barricaded all streets leading to the Lal Masjid.

During the past years, the Lal Masjid administration had persistently constructed illegal structures in the mosque-madressah complex but it had accelerated the pace of construction during the tenure of the present government.

Another CDA official said that the mosque's administration had encroached upon about 7,500 square yards (16 kanals) of land for the construction of the Jamia Hafsa.

He said the Lal Masjid administration had encroached upon three plots allocated specifically for a women's library, an author's corner and a gymnasium. The women library was a project of the education ministry and it had since been provided with an alternate plot.

The CDA had served several notices on the mosque's administration and several anti-encroachment operations had been planned but all such actions had been prevented by some people in power, the sources said.

The Jamia Hafsa's four-storeyed building was completed in 2003 and the CDA had tried to stop it during its construction, but a federal minister always interfered, stopping any action against the seminary, the officials said.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Imam of the Lal Masjid, Maulana Mohammad Ashfaq, took over the mosque's charge on Wednesday. He will lead the Friday prayers in the mosque which is being opened for the first time after the government crackdown. Dawn
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