LAHORE - Qari Tayyab Kakkayzai, prayer leader at Jamia Masjid Qudsi located in Islampura, was released by the police after he paid Rs 25,000 fine on the orders of a judicial magistrate.

Kakkayzai is among no less than 3,200 clerics arrested for violating the Punjab Sound Systems Regulation Ordinance 2015. He was taken into custody by the Lahore police when he was leaving the mosque after delivering Friday sermon. Police investigators said the cleric had violated the Punjab Sound Systems Regulation Ordinance 2015 by misusing the loudspeaker. Ultimately, the cleric was convicted but released only after he paid Rs 25,000 fine and gave an undertaking to the district administration that never ever would he violate the said ordinance.

According to a Lahore police spokesperson, since the national action plan (NAP) has been enforced, the police have arrested more than 3,200 people after registering 2,711 cases against them. The police have also seized 2,600 loudspeakers and amplifiers besides thousands of books, pamphlets, and CDs, the spokesman said.

Except for Friday sermons and call for prayers, anybody found involved in using the loudspeakers installed at the mosques would be arrested immediately, he added.

Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Amin Wains says that this is the policy of the state and no one should be allowed to challenge the writ of the state. The police have also been directed to show zero tolerance against the misuse of loudspeaker, wall-chalking, and other elements involved in printing or distribution of "provocative" material.

The field officers are ordered to step up intelligence gathering by employing plainclothesmen in every nook and corner of the Punjab capital. The foot soldiers are tasked to monitor the activities of the religious leaders particularly the hardline clerics, placed under the 4th schedule of the anti-terror act. The fourth schedule is a section of the ATA under which someone who is suspected of involvement in terrorism is kept under observation; it is mandatory for him to register his attendance with the local police regularly.

Police are asked to seize the loudspeaker, arrest the cleric, and also register criminal cases against the administration of mosques and seminaries, in case they are found violating the ban on the loudspeaker.

“No one is allowed to use sound system for even Milad conference or Mehfil-e-Naat. The police react immediately to take action against the organizers,” says Muhammad Mustafa, a resident of Samanabad, while criticizing the government’s policy.

More interestingly, the strong police action has virtually closed down the business of rent-a-sound system. Many people in the town get sound system on rent for special ceremonies like weddings or religious events.

The Punjab Sound System Association, a union of small traders who rent out sound system or amplifiers in Lahore, tried to stage protest demonstrations in different parts of the province but they disappeared after stiff police response.

As a part of the National Action Plan, the government has been working to stop printing and publication of hate material promoting sectarianism. The National Action Plan was drafted in the wake of the Peshawar school attack to chalk out a comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism and extremism. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had constituted special committees for the implementation of the Plan for counter-terrorism.

In January, the provincial police launched a massive crackdown on the orders of Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif and confiscated a large number of books, pamphlets, banners, newspapers, memory cards, DVDs, CDs, USBs, booklets and computers from various districts.

Shahbaz Sharif presided over a meeting of Provincial Apex Committee last week and reviewed in detail the measures adopted in the province with regard to implementation of national action plan against terrorism. The meeting expressed its satisfaction over the steps taken in this regard, however, it agreed to take consolidated steps for more effective implementation of national action plan in Punjab.

Addressing the Committee, the chief minister said that the steps being taken with regard to implementation of national action plan were yielding positive results and all departments were discharging their responsibilities with the best coordination. He also said that the Punjab government had taken immediate and timely measures with the cooperation of concerned institutions under national action plan for the eradication of terrorism and extremism and necessary amendments have been made in the laws for making sentences more stringent.

The CM said there is a new spirit and determination in Pakistani nation and it is the moment to take decisive action for rooting out the scourge of terrorism from the country. “Victory is the only option in this war which will be won at any cost for the survival of the country,” the CM was quoted as saying. Pakistan has the best trained army in the world which is fully capable of dealing with any internal or external challenge and it will defeat the enemies of peace and foil the nefarious designs of anti-Pakistan forces with the full support of the nation,” he added.