SRINAGAR: At a time when hoisting or displaying a Pakistani flag in the state can invite a long prison term, a mosque in old Srinagar named after former Pakistan president General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq loudly declares that pro-Pakistan sentiment has been expressed in other forms too.
This is possibly the only mosque in J&K that is named after a non-Kashmiri political figure.
The mosque at Jamalatta (Nawa Kadal) was formerly called Ganie Masjid, which the local residents used for prayers in winters. (Another mosque, Farooq Masjid, is used in summers.)
Ganie Masjid was being rebuilt when Haq was killed in a mysterious plane crash near Bahawalpur on 17 August 1988. His death was grieved widely in the Valley as he was one of the most vocal supporters of Kashmiri freedom struggle.
Jamalatta is one of the staunch pro-resistance localities in old Srinagar. Its residents had renamed Ganie Masjid as Zia Masjid as a mark of respect for the military ruler.
Abdul Ahad, a local resident, said that during fund collection for the mosque’s construction, the local management had announced that it would be named after Haq.
However, disagreement over renaming of the mosque occurred soon, with the elders saying the mosque had originally been built by a pious man named Jamal-ud-din Madni, after whom the area is named.
The mosque was named Shaheed (martyr) General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq Masjid only in 1993 after militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen rapped the management for raising funds in Haq’s name and not naming it after him.
Ghulam Hassan, a shopkeeper in the mosque’s vicinity, said the naming of the mosque was never questioned by the government probably because no Pakistani symbol is involved.
“It is named after a personality,” he said.