RAWALPINDI - Thousands of religious scholars, traders, politicians and people from different walks of life offered the Juma prayers at the site of the damaged Darul Uloom Taleem-ul-Quran, Raja Bazaar, amid a tight security cover provided by Pakistan Army, Rangers, police and other law-enforcement agencies (LEAs).

The Friday sermon was delivered by Maulana Ashraf Ali. The gathering was organised on the call of Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia to condemn the Rawalpindi massacre.

Jamiat Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal-Jammat (JASWJ) chief Allama Muhammad Ahmed Ludhyanvi, Darul Uloom Taleem-ul-Quran Naib Khateeb Mufti Aman Ullah Khan, Maulana Abdul Ghafar Tohidi, Qari Khalil Ahmed Sakhar, Allama Shakir Mehmood, former DG ISI Lt-Gen (r) Hameed Gull, Abdullah Hameed Gull, MNA and Awami Muslim League (AML) President Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, traders representatives, Sharjeel Mir and Malik Shahid Ghafoor Paracha, ex- PML-N MNA Shakil Awan, Sardar Nasim Khan, Dr Jamal Nasir, Maqbool Ahmed Khan and Farooq Khattak were among the devotees who offered the Friday prayers led by Maulana Ashraf Ali.

Addressing the mammoth gathering, Maulana said ulema and seminary students remained peaceful today (Friday) and even on the day of the Rawalpindi tragedy despite the collateral damage caused by the miscreants by burning the mosque, the seminary and the market. “But the government should not take our silence as our weakness and ban all mourning processions forever. These processions are actually the main reason for clash in the city,” he said. He asserted religious education would continue at the Darul Uloom. He demanded the government bring all the culprits involved in burning of the seminary and killing of the innocent students to justice.

Earlier, JASWJ Head Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhyanvi, while addressing the gathering, said all the participants of the protest and gathering created no trouble and the chief minister, the law minister and the federal interior minister should meet their promises by banning mourning processions in the country.

He said the ulema of all schools of thought expressed their solidarity with the administration of the Darul Uloom and condemned the incident. He called those who torched the seminary anti-state elements. He said: “We have been showing great patience over the tragedy otherwise no market or shop could remain safe. This country, markets and shops are our own and we do not want to create unrest. The miscreants slaughtered the innocent seminary students.” He urged the government to rebuild the seminary immediately. The number of students in seminaries increased after the Lal Majjid operation, said Ludhyanvi. He strongly condemned the US drone on a Hangu seminary, killing six ulema and students and injuring eight others. After the Friday prayers, most of the attendees dispersed peacefully.

On the occasion, the provincial government had tightened security by deputing army troops, Rangers and police to avert any untoward incident as Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia and religious parties were staging protest against the Rawalpindi incident in various parts of the city.

Police sealed various main roads and streets leading to Darul Uloom Taleem-ul-Quran, Raja Bazaar, Faizabad intersection and several other roads with barbwires, hand-pushed carts and containers.

All link roads around Raja Bazaar and Fawara Chowk, including Kohati Bazaar, Gawalmandi, Liaquat Road, College Road and Committee Chowk, had been sealed with barriers.

 Only three entry points had been set up for the participants of the gathering at Namak Mandi, Hamilton Road and Purana Qila with walkthrough gates and the security officials having metal detectors to frisk the people.

Though the government had imposed Section 144, many protests demonstrations and rallies were held. A rally of hundreds of charged protesters taken out from Chamanzar reached the site. Another rally appeared from Tench, which culminated at Raja Bazaar.

Police fired teargas shells to disperse a group of seminary students who tried to reach the burnt seminary. The area people faced a lot of problems because of the smoke caused by tear shells.

The unscheduled loadsheeding at the time of Juma prayers annoyed the seminary management as its representatives snubbed DCO Sajid Zafar for not asking Wapda to restore electricity supply. Rangers did not allow live coverage of the protest by media persons.

A clash-like situation was averted by police between two religious groups at Imambargah Shaheedan-e-Karbala when a rally of JASWJ turned violent after stones were pelted from inside the Imambargah.

A heavy contingent of police force, led by DSP Raja Taifoor, reached the spot to control the situation. The DSP sustained minor injuries during the clash. Reportedly, many protesters were arrested and shifted to police stations.

On the other hand, the city wore a deserted look because of protest demonstrations. All the business centres and shopping malls remained closed in the garrison city. Traffic remained thin on the roads, creating problems for the passengers. Attendance in government and semi-government offices was also thin. All the educational institutions remained closed.