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26 February 2020

Khateeb of the Mosque leases out land until doomsday

Shahi Masjid Chitral

Chitral— Khateeb and Imam of a historic mosque in Chitral has leased out a government property for an astonishingly longer period— believe it or not, until doomsday

The contractual arrangements have been made such that it cannot be terminated until doomsday, the tenant says. Sahibuz Zaman former Khateeb of Shahi Masjid-- whose son still runs the affairs of the mosque -- leased out a public property worth millions of rupees for a rent as little as Rs. 200 per month.

According to detail, former President of Pakistan, Gen. Zia Ul Haq bought a commercial land in Chitral and handed it over to Shahi Mosque to utilize it for an income generating purpose so that the mosque could remain self-reliant. He advised the Masjid Committee to construct shops on the land and generate rental income. The proceeds were intended to be used for repair and maintenance of the Mosque and the Masjid administrators were not supposed to sell or lease out the land. As per the rules, the Imam was not authorized to sell or lease out the land, only a Deputy Commissioner could strike any such deal. But Mr. Sahibuz Zaman gave it to Mr. Abdul Karim on lease.

MR. Sahib Zaman struck a written agreement with Mr. Abdul Karim that the rent will never be increased and that the lease will not be terminated until Qiyammat [Doomsday].

There are dozens of shops built on the land. The shopkeepers pay thousands of rupees to the lease-holder each month but Mr. Karim pays only Rs. 200 to the Masjid Committee.

"Shopkeepers pay rent ranging Rs. 6000 to 8000, each month. I think Mr. Karim is basking in a lucrative business but we know that he is paying only Rs. 200", a shopkeeper said.

A local lawyer Altaf Gohar was contacted for his opinion on the lease agreement being irrevocable until doomsday. He said it was illegal and mala-fide. The case should be challenged in the courts immediately, he said.

The historic mosque is currently in financial needs. The current Khateeb of the mosque often appeals worshipers to give donations to carry out repair and maintenance of the mosque. Due to severe cold in Chitral, the mosque also needs fire woods and the worshipers have to arrange for that.

There is a religious school too – within the premises of the mosque. A government appointed Khateeb, Mr. Fazal Maulla is not allowed to enter into the premises of the mosque.

Social and political circles as well as the worshipers of the mosque have appealed the government to conduct an inquiry into the matter and dislodge the so-called eternal leaseholders from the public property.

Shahi Mosque Chitral is a historic heritage. Recently the Chief Minister of KP had donated Rs. 37.187 million rupees for its renovation and restoration. However, during the work on the property, a minaret was damaged badly.

Gull Hamad Farooqui has contributed to this story from Chitral, Pakistan
Photo Credits: 
Mr. James © 2010, Pakistan