Lahore, Nov 28: A Pakistani court today extended by three weeks a stay on a move to rename a traffic roundabout in Lahore after legendary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.
Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh of the Lahore High Court extended the stay after the Punjab government and the Lahore city district government failed to submit their responses to a petition challenging the renaming of Fawara Chowk at Shadman after Bhagat Singh.
The Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool, a movement launched by the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, had filed the petition against a move by authorities to rename the roundabout.
Zahid Butt, a local trader who filed the petition on behalf of the organisation, claimed that RAW, India's external intelligence agency had funded the Bhagat Singh Foundation to raise the issue.
He claimed the Foundation lobbied the Dilkash Lahore Committee that recommended the renaming of the roundabout.
Senior JuD leader Maulana Amir Hamza, who heads the Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool, has said the group will not allow places to be named after Hindus, Sikhs or Christians. “Pakistan is a Muslim country and such ideas cannot be appreciated,” he said recently.
The JuD wrote a strongly worded letter to district administration chief Noorul Amin Mengal and other government officials, warning them not to rename the roundabout after a “Hindu freedom fighter”.
The Dilkash Lahore Committee had rejected all objections and asked authorities to notify the new name for the roundabout without delay.
In a related development, civil society activists have filed two applications in the Lahore High Court, asking it to make them parties to the case challenging the renaming of the roundabout.
Activists Taimur Rehman and Saeeda Diep filed the applications in the Lahore High Court yesterday through lawyer Yasir Latif Hamdani.
They contended that a frivolous impression was created by Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool that the decision to rename Fawara Chowk was a “conspiracy against Pakistan”.
However, the office of the registrar of the High Court raised objections to the applications.
The applicants stated that the renaming of the roundabout after Bhagat Singh was a “supreme act of patriotism”.
They said Pakistan is a Muslim country where everyone respects and cherishes the Prophet Mohammed.
They said the Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool had no locus standi in the matter as Bhagat Singh was known to hold no animosity towards Islam or the Prophet.
They argued that Bhagat Singh was a non-communal freedom fighter who stood for the independence of the subcontinent from British imperialism for all people, including Muslims.
The applicants further said the Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool was incensed by the move to rename the roundabout, which was earlier named after Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, who in his writings abused and attacked Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
They said it was true that Ali came up with the name Pakistan but it was well-known that he distanced himself from the country after its creation in 1947 and chose to live in Britain for the rest of his life and wrote against Jinnah and the Muslim League.
They further argued that the decision of the Lahore city district government to rename the roundabout was a legitimate exercise of executive authority which could not be impugned as it was an executive decision and was certainly not anti-Pakistan or anti-Islam by any stretch of the imagination.