HunzaNews, November 3rd, 2014.
Ten of the 20-member body of the board resigned earlier this week, complaining their suggestions to maintain sectarian harmony were overlooked by the government.
“On Saturday we had a meeting with Chief Minister Mehdi Shah but it fell short of addressing our reservations,” a member, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune on Sunday.
“In the meeting, also attended by the regional police chief and chief secretary, the chief minister assured us our reservations would be addressed but we pressed for implementation first.” He said they would withdraw their resignations only after their recommendations are implemented.
The resignations have raised a serious question over the effectiveness of the Masajid Board – a body that played a crucial role in restoring peace after sectarian riots left more than 70 people dead in the region during 2011-12. The board, with 10 members each from the Shia and Sunni sects, was responsible for implementing a code of conduct which allowed for the reopening of two mosques sealed in the aftermath of the violence.
The code barred prayer leaders of both central mosques in Gilgit from maligning each other’s beliefs and using harsh language against the other sect’s revered personalities.
Another member of the board, Abid Baig, confirmed they had a meeting with the chief minister a day earlier. Baig said the former members were adamant they would withdraw their resignations only if their safety recommendations are executed.
Baig said implementation is a must as they lose credibility in the eyes of the public when their suggestions are ignored. “When we asked the government to ban the display of arms and sectarian outfits and limit the use of loudspeakers, the government didn’t pay heed to our requests.”
The government has, however, acknowledged the role of the board and assured it of supporting its work in future.
“The role of the board has been marvellous in the past and we want to keep this going,” said the chief minister in a statement issued on Sunday. “Sectarian harmony is not possible without support from the masses and we realise this.”