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Legislative elections: G-B government urges prayer leaders, clerics to stay away from politics

GILGIT: The interim government in Gilgit-Baltistan has issued a strict warning to clerics and prayer leaders to not use mosques for electioneering in the legislative assembly polls.

According to a letter issued on Tuesday, the regional government said anyone who indulges in such activities will be dealt with under the National Action Plan. “Mosques are considered sacred and should not be used for any political gains,” stated the letter.

The warning came four days after the caretaker government announced legislative assembly elections for G-B will be held on June 8.

The letter stated that the G-B government has urged clerics and prayer leaders to steer clear of interfering in political matters and making statements against the army and police. It barred the clergy from holding protests, rallies and strikes which could fuel sectarian hatred in the region.

“Religious leaders have been asked to ensure a peaceful atmosphere for members of various sects to coexist in the region,” the letter added.

Political parties have been asked to seek prior approval before inviting political and religious leaders from outside the region for election campaigns.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, a government official said the decision was taken to strengthen democracy in the region.

“People will now be able to vote for any candidate they want to,” he said. “They will no longer be influenced by a group or a political party.”

The government’s decision has been viewed as a step in the right direction in a region where mosques have enjoyed considerable power due to the political vacuum created by the undecided constitutional status of the region.

In March 2012, the government sealed two mosques in Gilgit after fierce sectarian clashes left scores dead. However, the mosques were reopened in May after a law was enacted by the G-B Assembly in this regard.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2015.

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