Nightly prayers transform historic Badshahi Mosque into Ramadan retreat in Pakistan’s Lahore

Muslim offer evening prayers at the illuminated Badshahi Mosque in Lahore on April 6, 2024, on the occasion of Lailat al-Qader, also known as the Night of Power and the 27th night of the Holy month of Ramadan. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2024
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Nightly prayers transform historic Badshahi Mosque into Ramadan retreat in Pakistan’s Lahore

  • Built in the 17th century, the mosque hosts thousands of people every week, with a large percentage of them women
  • The number of people going to the mosque for worship has even increased further during the last ten days of Ramadan

LAHORE: As the sun dips below the horizon, signaling the end of the day’s fast, the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore begins to stir with renewed vitality, attracting people to the historic site of worship for special Ramadan night prayers.
Most of these people are residents of different neighborhoods of the city, but a significant chunk of them also travels from nearby towns and settlements, all drawn by the profound spiritual gravity of the last ten days of the Muslim fasting month.
These days have unparalleled significance since they contain Laylat Al-Qadr, the Night of Power, when the first verses of the Holy Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The air is charged with devotion, as the faithful seek to immerse themselves in prayer and reflection to maximize their spiritual experience.
Among the sea of believers is Irfan Hussain, who has traveled all the way from London. For him, this pilgrimage is an inward journey and a chance to experience the collective fervor of the special Taraweeh prayers in the mosque’s expansive courtyard, under the expanse of the night sky.
“To be honest, I’ve always dreamed to come to the Badshahi Mosque,” he told Arab News. “I’ve been to many mosques across the world but this Masjid is truly beautiful.”
What made his experience even more exhilarating is Jumu‘ah-tul-Wida‘a, the last Friday of Ramadan, which is considered sacred since it marks the biggest congregational prayer of the month before Eid Al-Fitr.
“Praying outdoors especially is amazing,” he continued. “In the UK, [and other] parts of the world, [we] don’t get a chance to pray outdoors.”
Hussain’s presence at the mosque, amid the throng of worshippers, reflects the timeless allure of the Badshahi Mosque, a place where history and holiness converge, offering a sanctuary for those seeking spiritual renewal in the sacred nights of Ramadan.
Constructed in the 17th century under the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb, the mosque offers a glimpse into the magnificence of Mughal architecture. Its red color enhances the grandeur of the large central dome, which is framed by grand minarets at each of the building’s four corners. Worshippers entering the main hall also marvel at the intricate marble work.
Unlike other mosques in much of the rest of the country, women also play a significant role in the communal life here, with dedicated areas for them to perform the Taraweeh and Friday prayers.
“[We want to ensure] that women can offer communal prayers as they’re meant to during special occasions like Ramadan, instead of just praying at home,” Bashir Azad, a mosque administrator, told Arab News.
The iftar offerings at the mosque, free and sizeable, start with the traditional dates, following Islamic custom. This also attracts many people, who had come for the Friday prayers, to stay through iftar, followed by the Isha and Taraweeh prayers.
Azad said the mosque’s ability to provide respite from the sun, combined with its historical significance in Old Lahore, created one of the finest communal prayer experiences.
“We offer one of the best experiences of communal prayers, so I think this all ties in together,” he continued. “People come early and they don’t want to leave till late.”
Dozens of people in the mosque are also practicing spiritual seclusion, known as i‘tikaf, observed during the last ten days of Ramadan, where Muslims dedicate themselves to prayer and Qur’anic reflection.
Dr. Mustafa Kamal, a radio presenter, is one of them.
“Yes, I’ve been coming here [in Ramadan] for a number of years now,” he said. “It’s difficult to say why I choose this mosque. There’s a sense of peace and calm here. I think my mind [stays] at ease here.”
Unlike such regulars, many people, like a woman named Shumaila, said they were offering Taraweeh prayers at the Badshahi Mosque for the first time.
“This is the first time I’ve been here for Taraweeh prayers. My son brought me here. The atmosphere here is great,” she said, attributing the tranquility of the place to the separate praying enclave for women.
Another woman, Hafsa, said she had come to the mosque with her sister and father on Jumu‘ah-tul-Wida‘a, even as their own home was situated in a different corner of the city in Raiwind.
“We come to the Badshahi Mosque very often,” she told Arab News. “Every Eid prayer and especially to say Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan.”
Asked why so many people within the city preferred to commute for an hour to come to this mosque, she said: “Because it’s a historical place [built] around 500 years ago by [Mughal Emperor] Aurangzeb Alamgir. So, a lot of people get together so they can perform Taraweeh in one of Allah’s grandest houses on earth.”


Pakistani Christian community attacked in Punjab province after blasphemy accusation

Updated 25 May 2024
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Pakistani Christian community attacked in Punjab province after blasphemy accusation

  • The violence broke out after allegations of the desecration of the Muslim scripture, the Holy Qur’an
  • Police says they pushed back a crowd to rescue five injured Christians before taking them to hospital

LAHORE: At least five members of a minority Christian community were rescued on Saturday after a Muslim crowd attacked their settlement in eastern Pakistan, police and a community leader said.
The crowd, which accused the Christian group of blasphemy, hurled stones and bricks at the police, said Shariq Kamal, the police chief of Sargodha district.
A large contingent of police cordoned off the settlement, he said, adding that the crowd had been pushed back and five injured Christians had been taken to hospital.
At least one house and a small shoe factory was set on fire by protesters who had gathered after neighbors alleged that the Muslim holy book, the Holy Qur’an, had been desecrated by a minority community member, according to a police spokesman and Akmal Bhatti, a Christian leader.
“They burned one house and lynched several Christians,” Bhatti aid.
Videos posted on social media showed protesters looting items from burning properties. Others were seen throwing the items in a heap on fire in a street.
Bhatti said the videos were images from the scene.
Reuters could not independently verify the pictures.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the Christian community was “at grave risk to their lives at the hands of the charged mobs.”
Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan, where just an accusation can lead to a street lynching.
Human rights groups say Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws are often misused to settle personal scores.
While blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, no one has been executed by the state for it, though numerous accused have been lynched by outraged mobs.
A Muslim crowd attacked a Christian community in eastern Pakistan last year, vandalizing several churches and setting scores of houses on fire after accusing two of its members of desecrating the Qur’an.


Police pursue leads in murder of local journalist in Sindh amid outcry over media safety

Updated 25 May 2024
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Police pursue leads in murder of local journalist in Sindh amid outcry over media safety

  • Nasrullah Gadani was killed in Ghotki and succumbed to his injuries at a Karachi hospital on Friday
  • Police chief in Ghotki says Gadani’s killers will be arrested after his family members register a complaint

KARACHI: Police in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province said on Saturday they have secured leads in the murder case of a local journalist, Nasrullah Gadani, who was killed for fearlessly carrying out his professional responsibilities, according to media community leaders.
The slain journalist, associated with the Sindhi newspaper Awami Awaz, was attacked by gunmen while traveling near Korai Goth, Mirpur Mathelo, on Tuesday.
Initially, he was shifted to Punjab province for medical treatment due to the lack of adequate health facilities in his home district. However, he was later airlifted to Karachi, where he succumbed to his injuries on Friday, leaving behind a widow and six children.
“We have already obtained leads but are waiting for the family to register an FIR [first information report],” Dr. Sumair Noor, senior superintendent of police in Ghotki, told Arab News, adding the police would apprehend the killers soon.
Earlier on Tuesday, Zia Ul Hassan Lanja, the provincial home minister, told the media that geofencing had been done to gather evidence in the case, and some people had already been detained.
Gadani’s death came three days after a young tribal journalist, Kamran Dawan, was killed in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal district, shedding light on the threats to journalists in the South Asian country.
Gadani mostly focused on stories related to corruption and injustices, making some powerful enemies. He confronted influential figures in his area and shed light on the struggles of the common citizen. His videos on social media often criticized feudalism, the military and the misgovernance of ruling classes while bringing attention to the plight of his community members.
In his last video, seen by Arab News, he criticized a feudal and local leader belonging to the province’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Shehbaz Khan Lund, for receiving police protocol in Ghotki, where incidents of dacoities and other crimes have surged over the years.
“Nasrullah was a brilliant and fearless journalist for whom journalism was a mission,” said Jabbar Khattak, editor and owner of Awami Awaz. “He constantly highlighted the issues of the people.”
G.M. Jamali, President of Pakistan’s Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), strongly condemned the murder but expressed little hope that the killers would be brought to justice.
“The killers of Gadani are unknown, while we have been protesting for the arrest of known accused in the Jan Muhammad Mehar case for the last few months and have seen no progress,” he said, referencing another journalist who was shot dead in Sindh last August.
“He [Gadani] also reported on the mismanagement of funds for developmental projects, shed light on the condition of hospitals and bravely spoke about police complicity in releasing criminals while offering preferential treatment to landlords,” he added.
Shoaib Ahmed, Secretary of the Karachi Press Club and convener of its Joint Action Committee, which includes all unions and associations, informed media leaders were in contact with the family of the slain journalist.
“Police have assured us that an FIR will be registered with the family’s consent and the perpetrators will be arrested soon,” he said.
“We will not let the killers go free,” he pledged.


Pakistan to establish safe city project for security of Chinese workers in its northwest

Updated 25 May 2024
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Pakistan to establish safe city project for security of Chinese workers in its northwest

  • The development comes two months after five Chinese workers, Pakistani driver were killed in suicide attack on their vehicle
  • The assault near the Dasu hydropower project was the third major one in a little over a week on Chinese interests in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi has formed a committee to prepare a plan for the establishment of Dasu-Chilas Safe City Project to ensure foolproof security of Chinese nationals working in the country’s northwest, the Pakistani interior ministry said on Saturday.
The decision was made at a meeting Naqvi presided over in Islamabad to review security of the Chinese and other foreigners. the newly formed committee will present its recommendations in 15 days.
The development came two months after five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in a suicide attack while they were on their way to the Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The hydropower project falls under the ambit of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, for which it has pledged more than $65 billion for road, rail and other infrastructure developments in Pakistan.
“The prime minister has instructed that Daso-Chilas safe city be established. It will be established according to modern requirements like the project’s establishment in Islamabad and Lahore,” Naqvi was quoted as saying by his ministry.
“The aim of safe city is not just to install cameras, but it would be a system equipped with modern technology and artificial intelligence tools. Through this project, the surveillance and security of this area will be ensured.”
The committee, which includes Islamabad police chief, Hazara regional police officer and a Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA) representative, will jointly prepare a comprehensive plan in this regard, according to the Pakistani interior ministry.
Chinese projects and interests have increasingly come under attack in recent years. The Dasu assault in March was the third major one in a little over a week on Chinese interests in Pakistan.
It followed a Mar. 20 attack on a strategic port used by China in the southwestern province of Balochistan, where Beijing has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects, and a Mar. 25 assault on a naval air base, also in the southwest. Both attacks were claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan.
Dasu, the site of a major dam, has been attacked in the past, with a bus blast in 2021 killing 13 people, nine Chinese among them, although no group claimed responsibility, like the Mar. 26 bombing.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s top economic body approved $2.5 million in compensation for families of Chinese workers who were killed in the Mar. 26 Dasu attack.


Motorist who killed two pro-Palestine protesters in Islamabad identified as army officer — police

Updated 25 May 2024
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Motorist who killed two pro-Palestine protesters in Islamabad identified as army officer — police

  • Protesters encamped at Islamabad’s D-Chowk for several days to raise awareness about the Gaza war
  • Earlier this week, a speeding car lost control and ran over several demonstrators, killing two of them

ISLAMABAD: The driver of a car, which ran over and killed two pro-Palestine protesters in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad this week, has been identified as an army officer and handed over to the military police, the Islamabad police said on Saturday.
The protesters have set up their camps at D-Chowk in the Pakistani capital for the past several days. On Monday, a speeding car ran over a few demonstrators, killing two of them and injuring four others.
The driver of the car had sped away from the scene, but was arrested by the police shortly afterwards.
“The driver who crushed two people to death [on Jinnah Avenue] was arrested from the scene and identified as an army officer,” Taqi Jawad, an Islamabad police spokesman, told Arab News.
“He was nominated in the FIR [police report] and later handed over to the military police for further legal action.”
While the protesters condemned the incident, they said this week it would not dampen their spirits and they would continue to urge the government to do more about Israeli military actions in Palestine.
“We feel that the State of Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan should do far more than it has been doing till now,” Humaira Masihuddin, a lawyer, told Arab News on Tuesday.
Pakistan does not recognize Israel and supports an independent Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital. In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war in Gaza at the United Nations through its permanent representative.
Rabail Shahid, a student, criticized the government for failing to provide security to the protesters in Islamabad.
“This incident happened here, I cannot even imagine, and [that too] in the Red Zone, in this Red Zone, which is a highly, strictly secured area,” she said.


Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Gaza, reaffirms support to Palestinians

Updated 25 May 2024
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Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Gaza, reaffirms support to Palestinians

  • The ICJ decision added to the pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel, coming just days after Norway, Ireland and Spain announced they will recognize Palestine as a state
  • The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in Gaza Strip as ‘genocidal’ and said they intended to destroy Palestinians

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday welcomed additional provisional measures by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, reaffirming its support for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
The ICJ decision on Friday added to the pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel, coming just days after Norway, Ireland and Spain said they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor of a separate international court sought arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip as “genocidal,” asserting that they intended to destroy the Palestinian people in ways specified under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
On Saturday, Pakistan’s foreign office said Islamabad supported the application filed by South Africa before the ICJ against Israel under the 1948 Genocide Convention, in follow up to which the ICJ announced additional provisional measures for Rafah.
“Pakistan demands immediate and unconditional implementation of the latest orders of the ICJ... We call on the UN Security Council to play its role in ending Israel’s ongoing brutal military campaign across Gaza; allowing unhindered flow of humanitarian assistance; taking effective measures to protect civilians in Gaza; and holding Israel accountable for its crimes,” the foreign office said in a statement.
“Pakistan reaffirms its unwavering support for the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinians for a viable, secure, contiguous and sovereign State of Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.”
Israel besieged the Gaza Strip and launched airstrikes following a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, prompted by the deteriorating conditions of the Palestinian people living under the Israeli occupation.
To date, the Palestinian death toll has reached about 36,000, predominantly women and children, as Netanyahu’s administration continues its military campaign that has demolished hundreds of residential neighborhoods along with hospitals and educational institutions.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.
“As required by the latest ruling of ICJ, Israeli occupation authorities should keep the Rafah crossing open for unhindered provision of humanitarian assistance, and ensure unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body mandated by the United Nations to investigate allegations of genocide,” the foreign office added.