PESHAWAR: Peshawar High Court on Tuesday allowed members of Shia community to carry out religious activities during Muharram in imambargahs apart from the places enlisted by the government and directed police to make proper security arrangements in that regard.
A two-member bench consisting of Justice Syed Arshad Ali and Justice Dr Khursheed Iqbal issued the order in two petitions filed by Imamia Jirga’s Muharram Committee and a representative of Shia community, Wajahat Ali, seeking orders for the government to permit them to carry out religious activities at new places of worship set up during the last few years in different parts of the province and also to chalk out a proper security plan.
The petitioners also requested the court to restrain the respondents, including the chief and home secretaries and commissioners and deputy commissioners of different divisions and districts from placing any unlawful restrictions on peaceful religious processions during the month of Muharram. They sought orders to stop respondents from taking any ‘illegal’ action, including registration of FIRs against participants of Muharram processions.
The petitioners contended that the law enforcement agencies were having a decades-old list of imambarghs and mourning procession routes and every year the same controversy emerged as they were not permitted for religious activities at new places of worship.
Bench directs police to make proper security arrangements for the purpose
The bench decided that as interim relief, the petitioners should be permitted that year to use the imambarghs apart from those enlisted with the government.
The bench adjourned hearing until October 26, directing the government to upgrade their lists in consultation with the stakeholders.
Advocate Shabbir Hussain Gigyani appeared for Imamia Jirga, whereas Syed Yahya Zahid Gillani represented the other petitioner.
Mr Gigyani stated that in accordance with court’s order, a meeting was convened by provincial home secretary and secretary of Imamia Jirga Akhunzada Muzzafar Ali also attended it.
He stated that the meeting was also attended by the relevant commissioners and district police officers through video link. He added that the petitioner had handed over his list of places of worship to the secretary.
Barrister Babar Shehzad Imran appeared for the government and submitted the government report.
He contended that as Muharram had already started, it would be difficult for the law enforcement agencies to provide security to scores of new places of worship pointed out by the petitioners.
He stated that giving permission for carrying out religious activities at places not in the government schedule would affect the security plan.
He said that according to the plan, the government permitted religious activities at the already enlisted places and would also be providing proper security to them.
Mr Gigyani stated that the petitioner had filed almost identical petitions in the year 2017, 2019 and 2020 and all those years the government had been making the same excuses.
He contended that the government was having four decades-old list of places of worship and was not upgrading it despite manifold increase in population.
He stated that it had become a routine practice each year that after religious processions in Muharram police in different cities register FIRs, claiming that the participants violated Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure by holding processions.
Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2022