Lahore: Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed was barred by Pakistan’s Punjab provincial government from delivering the Friday sermon at Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) headquarters in Lahore, where a government-appointed cleric led prayers and delivered the weekly sermon.
This is for the first time since the establishment of Jamia Masjid Al-Qadsia, JuD headquarters, some two decades ago that a government nominated cleric delivered the Friday sermon.
Saeed was never stopped from delivering Friday sermons even during the years when Masjid Qadsia’s control was under the Punjab government.
Friday, heavy contingent of police was present in and around the JuD compound since morning.
Over the years the compound is housing residential quarters, a library and book shops.
“As the government has taken complete control of the JuD compound, only a few local people turned up to offer Friday prayers,” Qari Abdul Rauf, an official of the Punjab government, appointed by the Punjab government, told PTI.
Before the government’s action, a large number of people, mostly JuD activists and its sympathisers, would gather at the mosque every Friday to listen to Saeed’s sermon.
“All other activities of the compound have been shut. All the residential quarters, the library and book shops have been sealed and police personnel have been deployed there,” the official said, adding that only the mosque area has been left open for the public to offer prayer.
“The mosque area will be opened five times a day for offering prayers only,” he said.
The official said Saeed and other top JuD leaders did not visit the compound Friday. “In fact the JuD leadership has been warned not to visit the compound since it has been taken over by the government,” he added.