The Land Grab behind the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa drama

Posted on April 13, 2007. Filed under: Jamia Hafsa Ninjas, Lal Masjid, Talibanization |

Ninjas from the Jamia Hafsa have been illegally occupying the children’s library. Mind you it is the only public children’s library in the capital city of Islamabad. That alone says some things about the priorities of our people but lets save that for a later thread. When I first heard the news, I was a little bemused and thought this was just going to be a 1-2 day sit-in, civil disobedience action. Three months into the occupation, it clearly is much more.

A lot has been said about the illegal nature of the ninja occupation. Blogistan has been afire with threads and comments in all direction from all view points. The story has been picked up by all major international media. But surprisingly there has been little investigation into the motives. I was a pleasantly surprised to find a new angle on the whole thing. Most of what follows is me paraphrasing this article and parsing it out for an easier, comprehensible read.

The library under occupation happens to be just down the street from the Madrassa. In between lie three plots of land. The library and these parcels of land are owned by the Ministry of Education, through its arms: the Department of Libraries and the National Book Foundation. The land it seem, was obtained for future expansion of the children’s library. But a few years ago the madrassa, it seems decided to usurp the land for its own benefit. They expanded onto the street, back into the green belt, and sideways onto library property. No one from the ministry or CDA was able to challenge this land grab effectively.

Then the recent demolition by CDA of some illegally constructed mosques probably sent shivers up the spine the (mis)management of Lal masjid. They were guilty of the same crimes and could be next in line for the demo squad. And therein he seems to have hatched a great plan to save his gaddi(seat). He was going to be proactive about protecting his illegal construction. The occupation of the library by the Ninja squad starts making sense now. The terrorizing of the neighborhood has a new context now.

In short time the madrassa started expanding Jamia Hafsa and building on the vacant plots of land of the Dept. of Education. And they built enough to expand their capacity from a paltry 500 students to the 5000+ they are housing now. Whoa! Were the owner ministry and the city government caught snoozing. Not really but they do seem unwilling to act forcefully. Read on.

The construction of a small part of Jamia Hafsa was initiated in 1999 behind Children Library. It was in late 2002 that it was extended on the land owned by two departments of the Ministry of Education. This illegal construction on ministry land must have enjoyed tacit support from the Islamabad administration for they took no action against the encroachment.

On May 3, 2003, the then Secretary Education, Tariq Farooq wrote a letter to Chairman CDA to get the plot vacated but nothing was done. When CDA failed to get the land vacated, the Education Minister, Lt.Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, officially requested the Interior Minister, Aftab Sherpao on December 31, 2004 “to look into the matter personally and direct CDA to arrange possession of land to department of libraries at the earliest.” The interior minister did not respond to that request and since then neither Javed Ashraf.

The then Chairman of National Book Foundation, Ahmed Faraz also lodged FIR against Maulana Abdullah’s sons, Ghazi Abdul Rashid and Maulana Abdul Aziz over encroachment of the land. CDA then intervened and offered a place in lieu of those two plots. Unfortunately, department of libraries didn’t get any substitute plot and also lost in January 2007 the possession of Children Library, which was providing healthy entertainment to a number of children.

Interestingly, General(retd.) Qazi, who is also former DG ISI, intervened to the extent that when the female students of Jamia Hafsa invaded Children Library in January 2007 to settle their scores with the government, he did not give a single statement over such an unlawful act.

So the good general seems to have no qualms about giving up the rightful claims of the department he is supposed to be a guardian of in favor of the ISI’s old partners at Lal Masjid.

Reaction from CDA: According to the sources, after the land was bought in 2001, first CDA delayed handing over the possession to the ministry and then the land was encroached. Since then Ministry of Education has been officially requesting CDA to hand over the possession of those three plots. CDA in turn has been requesting Deputy Commissioner for taking action. Those three plots, holding a tall building of Jamia Hafsa as of now, actually belong to the two of the departments of Ministry of Education. The payment of two plots was made by the National Book Foundation and of one by the Department of Libraries.

Acting Chairman CDA, Kamran Qureshi substantiated the fact that the land belongs to National Book Foundation and Department of Libraries. “It’s certainly encroached and we have sent almost over 120 notices to them and also to Islamabad administration but no action was taken by the Deputy Commissioner,” said Kamran Qureshi.

According to a senior official of Islamabad administration, “the administration should have done something if CDA had requested. And CDA could also use its enforcement staff if it actually wanted to get the land vacated.”

Reaction from Interior Ministry: When Sherpao was asked about the illegal construction of Jamia Hafsa in 3 to 4 years on the land owned by Ministry of Education right next to Children Library, he denied having any such information about the ownership of land and saying rather annoyingly, “your information is not correct and the madrassah has been there since long. How can it be constructed within such a short time period.”

Initially the minister could not differentiate between the Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Faridia. He thought that contentious Jamia Hafsa was located in E-7. The Interior Minister, who is supposedly dealing with the issue, doesn’t even know that the female students, who are a hindrance in any action taken by the police to arrest the kingpin Ghazi Abdul Rashid, were a very small part of Lal Masjid. They have burgeoned in 3 to 4 years. Either he is helpless or he wants to disown the fact that Ministry of Education did bring the matter to his notice and requested him to get involved personally but for some reason he had to turn a deaf ear to it.

Reaction of the Police: In 2004 the then IG Islamabad and SP entered Lal Masjid to arrest wanted Ghazi and his brother Maulana Abdul Rashid, but the female students came to their rescue.” “Consequently the IG was transfered. Such an action taken against the IG by the government has strengthened them even more.”

On 21st January, an FIR was lodged by watchman Muhammad Ehsan of the Children Library, against the Jamia Hafsa students over illegally occupying the library. Since then the FIR seems to have languished on govt. desk. The police look on from afar but are powerless to act, as the generalisimo atop the chain of command seem to have lost his wits.

When IG Islamabad, Iftikhar Ahmed was questioned about the delayed action against Ghazi and about the lethal charges against him in 2004, he responded, “I assure you, we will arrest him and the law will take its course. We are only being careful about taking any action against him since he has taken refuge behind those female students.” He further said, “Those FIRs against him still stand and we are waiting for the right time but whenever the action is taken, we are afraid, may result in bloodshed.”

If you thought that was the extent of the land grab, think again. The Lal Masjid itself is under illegal occupation of the mullah brothers. You see the mosque is a property of the Department of Auqaf.  The Khateeb (guy who leads prayer services and says the khutba on Fridays) and the muazin (dude with the good voice who sings the azaan-call to prayers) are employess of and appointed and paid by the department of Auqaf. Read on.

Deputy Director Auqaf, Malik Afsar said, “Ghazi’s presence in Lal Msjid is due to his brother Maulana Abdul Aziz who was employed as khateeb of Lal Masjid in 1998 after his father was slain. Although we terminated his services as khateeb in 2004 but he is residing there in blatant violation of law.”

He said, “Auqaf department has nothing to do with the matter since it was sent to district administration and AC is looking into the it. Officially the khateeb and muazan of Lal Msjid is Ayub Abid.” So will the real khateeb and muazin of the Lal Masjid please stand up, please stand up.

On the whole the article makes for a depressing read. This is a city, a country, in which the ordinary citizen cannot get his basic rights. But the generals, and the gaddi nasheen politicians, and the bureaucrats, and the mullahs steal with impunity. While we the citizens are fighting, in the blogistan and on the streets of Pakistan, about what if any Islam’s role should be in the running of our country. The poverty pimps and the jihad whores are playing us all like puppets.


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5 Responses to “The Land Grab behind the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa drama”

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Well, this settles the entire issue. This has been going on for years, and those who tried to put law into action ended up paying the price – this sets a bad example.
I do not think any one will come forward to do anything about it. Either the matter will run out of steam or it will explode if by any chance the counter protesters lose a life or two after getting a beating from the undercover Hell-Angels.

Well that has been the story of Pakistan, hasn’t it. A lot of hysteria is created, then steam is let off, in the end nothing concrete happens. We stay on simmer forever. We keep hoping for something to happen and nothing does. Sab acha hai, sab chalta hai.
Hells Angels? lol, come on now AA, these pious undercover hoors are what the taliban salivate for in the afterlife.

Our memories are short, very volatile.

Thank you for your well written coverage, to me this paints the picture of a stumbling, bumbling, and frightened bureacracy. After all, how brave would children’s librarians be? My hope is that they have not burnt all the children’s books, that would be a shame, and that this is resolved soon without harm to the children. (Perhaps some deserve some harm and have become zealots, but I think some might be hostage.)

Thanos, yes you are right about the bureaucracy. But the orders in Pakistan come from the top and that is where the inability to act with conviction lies.

The ninjas are young girls who were mostly sent from their traditional pathan families to the madrassa for a safe environment and islamic education. I doubt that the parents ever envisioned their daughters getting brain washed and used as political pawn by the mullahs.

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