Now, Pak court stops renaming of roundabout after Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh
Days after an official panel endorsed the renaming of a roundabout in Lahore after freedom fighter Bhagat Singh despite opposition from the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, a Pakistani court today barred authorities from going ahead with the move.

Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh of the Lahore High Court stopped the Punjab government from renaming Shadman Chowk as Bhagat Singh Chowk in response to a petition filed by Tehrik Hurmat-e-Rasool, a movement launched by the JuD.

The judge issued notices to the Punjab government, the City District Government of Lahore, the Dilkash Lahore ommittee and the Bhagat Singh Foundation to file their

responses to the petition by November 29.

Zahid Butt, who filed the petition on behalf of Tehrik Hurmat-e-Rasool, alleged that Indian spy agency RAW had funded the Bhagat Singh Foundation to raise the issue of renaming Shadman Chowk after Bhagat Singh.

He claimed the Foundation had lobbied with the Dilkash Lahore committee, which had endorsed the move to rename the roundabout after Bhagat Singh.

Senior JuD leader Amir Hamza is the head of the Tehrik Hurmat-e-Rasool.

Hamza had earlier said his organisation would not allow places in Lahore to be renamed after Hindus, Sikhs or Christians.

"Pakistan is a Muslim country and such ideas cannot be appreciated," he had said.

About two weeks ago, the City District Government of Lahore had put on hold a move to rename Shadman Chowk due to objections from hardline groups like the JuD and Jamaat-e-Islami and a section of local residents.

The matter was referred to Dilkash Lahore, a committee set up to revitalise and beautify Lahore and to finalise new names for squares, roads and intersections after assessing their historical significant before the creation of Pakistan.

The committee rejected all objections earlier this week and asked authorities to notify Bhagat Singh Chowk as the new name of the roundabout without any further delay, officials said.

JuD leaders and traders from Shadman Market, located near the roundabout, protested against the government's decision yesterday.

Senior JuD leader Amir Hamza and Zahid Butt, the president of the local traders' body, announced that they would refer to the roundabout as Hurmat-e-Rasool Chowk.

Members of the Dilkash Lahore committee, while discussing the renaming of Shadman Chowk after Bhagat Singh, highlighted the importance of the place where the freedom fighter was hanged by the British.

Bhagat Singh was hanged in March 1931 in the erstwhile Lahore Jail, which stood at the spot where the roundabout was built later.

"(Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah) too appreciated Bhagat Singh in his speech on September 13, 1947," said noted television anchor Iftikhar Ahmad, who is a member of the committee.

The City District Government of Lahore had first announced in the last week of September that the roundabout would be renamed after Bhagat Singh on the occasion of his death anniversary.

The move was put on hold after the JuD sent a strongly worded letter to district administration chief Noorul Amin Mengal and other government officials, warning them not to rename the spot after a "Hindu freedom fighter".

Retired Supreme Court judge Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday, a member of the Dilkash Lahore committee, said Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan had always respected and protected the rights of minorities, including Sikhs, Hindus and Christians.

"That is why we are considering various important personalities, whether Muslims or Sikhs, Hindus and Christians, while renaming different places, intersections and underpasses in Lahore," Ramday said.

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