Prayer leaders emerge as ‘potent’ pressure group


As the country is yet to recover from the mess created by extremist elements, the khateebs, imams and moazzins, posted at various mosques in Islamabad, are emerging as yet another pressure group, which works silently to pressurise the administration and turn things into its favour.
Taking advantage of the situation that emerged after the 9/11, particularly in Pakistan, the religious groups and networks enjoyed almost absolute liberty and increased their support base many folds over the last few years. According to a report prepared by the local administration on the community of prayer leaders and others posted at the Islamabad mosques, a copy of which is available with Pakistan Today, these clerics cultivate personal relationship with the community and exploit it to their benefit for overstay at a particular mosque of their choice. The report said different sects had reacted in a labour union-style to frustrate any attempt on part of the administration to transfer or dislodge them. Rather administrative issues and law and order situation are created on any such move.
The clerics whether khateebs or khuddams, are the government servants working in different pay scales but are never answerable to discipline which is required for a government servant. They also, in some cases, get support from different higher circles, the report adds.
The community comprises around 187 members, out of which the duration of posting of 15 khateebs and moazzins at a particular mosque is over 15 years while some 49 khateebs and moazzins have been staying at a particular mosque for the last over 20 years.
The intensity of pressure of this community on the city administration can be gauged from the fact that the mosques collectively owe Rs 15 million under the head of electricity and gas bills (electricity Rs 9 million and Rs 6 million)but no one dared to cut the connections. The city administration attributes the non-payment of utility bills to misuse of electricity and gas, continuous increase in tariff and less allocation in budget.
On the question of administrative control of government institutions over the mosques, the Islamabad administration opined that experience of keeping mosques in government control suggested that it should neither be under the Interior Ministry nor under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. It said as majority of the mosques were run by community better than the Auqaf Department, there was no need to have any official control over them.
According to the report, there are a total 86 mosques and three shrines situated in the Islamabad Capital Territory, which are under the administrative the control of Auqaf Department Islamabad. Out of the 86, 38 mosques are under the administrative control of Barelvis, 44 are run by Deobandis, 2 each by Ahle-Hadith and Shia. Out of the three shrines, 2 belong to Barelvi sect and one Shia.