Proposed Ulema Council to include members from Shia, Sunni, Noor Bukhshi and Ismaili sects.
In wake of the ‘promising role’ of the recently-established Masjid Board to ensure sectarian harmony in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), the G-B government has now decided to set up an 11-member Ulema Council to reinforce the peace efforts.
“It has been agreed in principal that the Ulema Council will be set up to support the Masjid Board,” an official of the G-B government told The Express Tribune on Saturday. The official, who requested not to be named, said a parliamentary peace committee, which set up the Masjid Board, has submitted its recommendations in this regard to the G-B chief minister.
The Masjid Board, which is represented by 20 members (10 each from Shia and Sunni sects), is responsible for implementing a “code of conduct” prepared by the parliamentary peace committee, binding prayer leaders from maligning each other’s beliefs or using harsh language against the revered personalities of other sects.
Talking about the composition of the Ulema Council, the G-B government official said that “as per agreement”, four members each will be chosen from the Sunni and Shia sects, two from the Noor Bukhshi sect and one from the Ismaili sect. The official said that the status of the council members will be at par with that of a provincial secretary, however, their services will not be permanent and the period of their service will be decided by the cabinet in due course.
Adviser to Prime Minister for Gilgit-Baltistan, Attaullah Shahab said the size of the Ulema Council was expanded in view of “the good work done by the Masjid Board”. Shahab said that according to the earlier plan, two members each from Sunni and Shia sect were to be selected for the council, but now their strength has been doubled.
The PM’s adviser added that keeping in view of the positive role of the Noor Bakhshi and Ismaili communities in the society, it was decided that they too will be given representation in the council.
Shahab lauded the role of the Masjid Board in ensuring sectarian harmony by bringing top clerics of the Sunni and Shia sects to the negotiating table.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2012.