Giving in to the pressure from hardline groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and a section of local residents, Pakistani authorities have put on hold a move to rename a roundabout in Lahore after freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.
The City District Government of Lahore had announced last month that Shadman Chowk would be renamed Bhagat Singh Chowk to acknowledge his revolutionary spirit and his role in the movement against the erstwhile British rulers of the subcontinent.
District administration chief Noorul Amin Mengal, who made the decision to rename the roundabout, came down hard on officials of his department for not placing a board inscribed with "Bhagat Singh Chowk" at the spot.
However, authorities have still not placed the board at the roundabout and officials today said that the move to rename Shadman Chowk had been put on hold.
"We received a strongly worded letter from the JuD that warned us not to rename Shadman Chowk after a Hindu freedom fighter. Besides, we also got a negative response from some individuals," an official of the City District Government told PTI.
During a public hearing on the issue, several persons rejected the idea of renaming Shadman Chowk after Bhagat Singh, said the official who did not want to be named.
The official, who is close to the district administration chief, said Mengal was criticised by different segments of society and groups like the JuD and Jamaat-e-Islami for "paying tribute to Bhagat Singh" and his plan to rename the roundabout.
The officials said the opponents of the move were of the view that Pakistan is a Muslim country and its roads and squares should be named after Muslims, not Hindus or Sikhs.
In a recent statement, senior JuD leader Amir Hamza said: "We will not allow the renaming of places after Hindus, Sikhs or Christians".
He said Pakistan is a Muslim country and such ideas could not be appreciated.
Hamza further said that if the government dared to rename Shadman Chowk after Bhagat Singh, the JuD would launch a protest drive.
Ejaz Anwar of the National College of Arts -- who heads 'Dilkash Lahore', a committee set up to revitalise and beautify the capital of Punjab province -- told PTI that the renaming of Shadman Chowk had been "delayed temporarily" as the government had put the ball in the committee's court.
"We want to rename several squares, roads and intersections after assessing their historical significance in the pre-Pakistan era," he said.
Anwar said the JuD had not only written strongly worded letters to Mengal and other government officials but also threatened to "surround" their offices.
"The JuD and others want the Chowk to be renamed as 'Hurmat-e-Rasool'. They even put up banners renaming Shadman Chowk on their own.Under such circumstances, how can the government go ahead with its proposed plan?" Anwar said.
Bhagat Singh was hanged in March 1931 in the erstwhile Lahore Jail, which stood at the spot where the roundabout was built later.
The Dilkash Lahore committee has been tasked with renaming historic locations, restoring historical buildings and designating historic spots of Lahore.The panel is also expected to discuss the future of Basant, the spring festival that has lost much of its colour since kite flying was banned by the Punjab government headed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.