’Not an appropriate time to meet,’ Deobandi scholars tell PM Khan

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan meets delegation of religious scholars at his office in Islamabad on Oct. 18. 2019. ( PID photo)
Updated 19 October 2019

’Not an appropriate time to meet,’ Deobandi scholars tell PM Khan

  • PTI government says seminaries and scholars are politically “neutral”
  • Government says seminaries and scholars had excused themselves due to prior engagements

KARACHI: Top clerics from Pakistan’s Deobandi Islamic school of thought did not attend a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Islamic scholars on Friday, citing concerns their presence would be inappropriate, and give the impression they supported the government ahead of a protest march led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), a Deobandi political party.

The JUI-F ‘Azaadi’ (freedom) march is a moving protest scheduled to begin on Oct. 27, with Pakistan’s two biggest opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), announcing this week they will be participating in Rehman’s protest, which aims to make the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government step down due to its inability to deliver on election promises.

“Our consultative meeting decided to decline the invitation because we thought it was not an appropriate time to meet the PM, as it will give an impression that we have sided with the government,” Maulana Talha Rehmani, spokesperson of Wafaq ul Madaris Al-Arabia Pakistan, a seminary board that conducts examinations of more than 10,000 affiliated Deobandi seminaries and 8,000 schools across the country, told Arab News.

However, Azhar Laghari, head of the PTI’s Public Relations and Media, said the seminaries simply had prior engagements that kept them from attending Friday’s meeting. 

“Some Deobandi religious scholars excused themselves from attending the meeting due to other commitments,” Leghari told Arab News.

But Rehmani denied the government’s version of events.

“It was a mutual decision to decline the invitation, due to the prevailing political condition,” he said.

While clarifying that religious seminaries were not to be part of the march, and were “neutral,” he said students of seminaries in their “individual capacity” were free to undertake political activities.

“The boards have strict instructions that affiliated madaris, as institutions, will not participate in any public gathering, rally or march but that students in their individual capacity are free to take part in the activity of any political party,” Rehmani said, and admitted that a majority of students of Deobandi Madrasas supported JUI-F.

According to a handout issued by the PM House, the predominant agenda of the Prime Minister’s meeting was a discussion of reforms in religious schools, while the scholars were also urged to highlight the Kashmir issue from their respective platforms, in response to India revoking the special legal status of the disputed, Muslim-majority territory on Aug. 5th. 

Earlier, local media reported the Prime Minister had said at the occasion that the meeting was not called to seek scholars’ support over the protest march, and concluded with few mentions made of the impending sit-in.

Scholars who attended the meeting included members from the four mainstream sects of the country- the Council of Islamic Ideology, Muttahida Ulema Board, Punjab, and Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee. 

Pakistan reopens borders for trade with Iran 

Updated 05 July 2020

Pakistan reopens borders for trade with Iran 

  • Had closed all five terminals in Feb. to limit COVID-19 infections from Tehran
  • Follows interior ministry’s directive two days ago

 KARACHI: Starting Sunday, Pakistan will resume trade at four of its border points with Iran, weeks after opening its main Taftan crossing on June 17, the Foreign Office spokesperson told Arab News on Sunday.
“All five points are open from today. Taftan is the main border for travel and trade,” Aisha Farooqui said.
The border opening follows a directive issued by the interior ministry on Friday instructing officials to reopen the crossings based on a decision taken during a National Command Operation Center (NCOC) meeting a day earlier. 
The border points will be open only for the purpose of trade and the ban on the cross-border movement of people will remain in place until further notice.
“Gabd, Mand, Katagar, and Chedgi borders will remain open seven days a week, from morning till evening, as per mutually-agreed timings between both countries with effect from 5. July, 2020, only for trade... while ensuring all COVID-19-related SOPS and protocols (are followed),” the notification said about the border points which were temporarily opened for cargo on April 21.
Pakistan closed its borders with Iran on February 24, after the neighboring country reported surging rates of the infection.
Four days later, it reopened Taftan crossing to allow 300 stranded nationals, mostly traders, to re-enter Balochistan province.