by Engr. Sharique Naeem
This year witnessed mass protests by Muslims in the Arab world, against despotic dictators. For years the voices of people had been suppressed by oppressive tyrants. However, with a stunning display of bravery the Muslims took to streets to protest against the regime. The people came out in their thousands, the likes of which the Arab world, had never seen before. These Muslims were met with brute force unleashed upon them by the Dictators. Inspite of this, the protesters did not resort to vandalism, thefts and destruction of public property at large. The very dictators, whom the western democracies had backed for decades, became the object of critique and condemnation once it was clear that they would no longer be able to continue to rule, in face of growing protests.
The governments of western democracies had hailed these uprising as a yearning for a democracy. Indeed some countries in the west, had used all the arsenal at their disposal to export democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and lately in Libya.
However, even a cursory glance at the chants of the protesters in the Arab world, shows that they wanted a regime change, and replace despotic tyrants with a system of governance from Islam. In arrogance however, the west had continued to maintain, that democracy is the only alternative, for the Arabs, and the people at large, who seek to progress, want justice and prosperous economies, accountability and rule of law.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah – Presidential Address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11th August, 1947
As you know, history shows that in England conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.
The heirs of Jinnah’s Pakistan have failed to live up to the expectations of the nations founding fathers. Today’s attacks on Ahmedi “worship places”, was despicable and deserved not only our sympathies with the families of the victims; but our unequivocal condemnation of such barbarism.
However, that too seems too much to ask for.
Naeem Sadiq writes in Dawn today about the business of violence in Karachi, this is part of his recent initiative to work towards de-weaponizing Karachi. He writes “Violence in Karachi is a lucrative corporate business. It appears to be financed and sponsored by big-time politicos, political parties, religious groups and state agencies. The Puppoos, Rehmans and others are only front-men for the high and mighty” read the entire op-ed here
A Bomb Blast ripped through MA Jinnah Road on 28th December 2009 – this video of the kilometer long stretch of road shows that the mobsters ransacked a large section of the street leaving a hundreds of shopkeepers devastated and a loss of millions of rupees.
A group of concerned citizens sympathized with many shopkeepers, trying to share in their grief but there were simply one too many. The kilometer stretch of road was in flames. Targeted attacks on particular markets was noted, indicating that it was not a random affair. The witnesses all say that the rioting starts almost immediately after the bomb blast that one has to wonder if there was a definite plan to cause serious harm. While walking the enter business district one noted that the fire continues to burn in a few of the buildings still 16-20 hours later, indicting that some chemical was used to ignite these shops. A short compilation of the videos and pictures that we took on our visit today can be seen here
I kind of get puzzled by the reaction of people on the Independence Day. The celebrations, the road blocks, parade of bikes with mufflers (silencers) stripped off, the disproportioned flags, the aerial firing at midnight, all in the middle of a comedy of crises never witnessed in the history of this country; the water crises, the electricity crises, the hike of sugar prices, the political crises, and what not … though the public rejoices on 14th of August 2009.
Mushkelain itni pareen ke assan ho gain…? Or that was a blatant exhibit, a clear reminder to the world that we are still alive…? I doubt it, something is fishy here. Because the same crowd, probably, torched public and private property of hundreds of billions of Pak Rupees when one of their favorite politicians got assassinated in a suicide attack? Or when a European newspaper published the caricature of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)….? Or after some innocent illiterate children mistakenly sliced an Islamiat text book containing text from the Holy Quran? … The same crowd? … or different factions hidden within our skins, each of which revealing their ugly face when ever their so called “holy gods” are desecrated, not when they do the same with their own hand but by those who they don’t considered qualified for it!
“A very unpleasant incident of Muslim Christian’s riots took place in Gojra, a place near Faisalabad, on Friday, 31st July 2009. Seven people were killed and several injured while 40 houses were set ablaze. Indeed maximum condemnation of this incident becomes insufficient as it was the duty of Islamic state [of Pakistan] to protect the lives and properties of Non-Muslim citizen of the state.” This is the intro of article by Maulana Saeed Ahmed Jalapuri, Ameer Almi Majlis-e-Tahfuz-e- Khatam-e-Nabuat Karachi which he gave me for reading before the interview. Both the English and Urdu version of article “Saniha-e-Gojra, Pase Parda Muharekat” will be published on my blog soon inshaAllah.
After reading the intro of article, I cut short the list of my questions and asked who has committed this heinous crime? Is there any hand of Khatam-e-Nabuat in this incident?
Maulana Saeed smiled despite my blunt questions and replied: “Islam doesn’t allow any individual or group to take law in his hand. We can’t tolerate that our worker would take law in his hand. Khatam-e-Nabuat doesn’t believe in fanaticism. We have a long list of martyrs but you can’t name a single killer in our ranks. We haven’t killed a single Qadiani even, leave alone the Christians. We are struggling in the frame work of the state Law and will keep our struggle continued peaceful. We have neither taken law in our hand nor will we do in future.”
The curse of religious fanaticism has struck once again. Not in the beautiful valleys of N.W.F.P but in Gojra, the heartland of industrial Punjab. This was not the work of a foreign funded militant group or a separatist movement. It was actually the result of propagating religious chauvinism, intolerance of diverse communities, distorting history, glorifying the use of force and promoting obedience and militancy in the past three decades as state policy and as an integral part of our curriculum.
Mukhtar Masih from Gojra is the caretaker of my maternal family’s home in Karachi since 1977. He was hired by my grandmother as a cook and today his son and his family also live in Karachi. Like other migrants to the cosmopolitan, he had supported his younger siblings and had steadily built a house at Gojra. Mukhtar spent sleepless nights last weekend when his locality of Christian Colony was looted and burned. His younger brother, Javed Masih, a sanitary worker in Civil Hospital Gojra for the past 17 years narrated the following accounts to the writer.
Javed mentioned that the episode began at a Christian wedding in the nearby village of Korian on Thursday evening, July 29th, 2009. He said that people were throwing money at the bride groom’s wedding party but later neighbors alleged that torn pages of the Qur’an were used to shower the party as well. Javed questioned how was it possible for people to use pages from a holy book at a wedding reception? Why would anyone in their right mind do such a thing? It has now been learned that children had unknowingly cut pages of an old Islamic Studies textbook to use as shreds to shower on the wedding party. Those who had initially raised the claim of desecration were satisfied the next day when it was proven that illiterate street kids were responsible for unintentionally tearing a textbook, not the holy Qur’an.
Bishop Ijaz Inayat from the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Karachi shares an email with the latest update on the tragic incident which left 9 people dead in Gojra, this is more as a follow up to his earlier report that we published on 2nd of August
According to latest news five terrorist considered to be member of the core group which conspired the burning of Christians and their house in Gojra and Korian have been arrested.
These arrests were done from Sindh and Frontier provinces. In this barbaric incident over forty houses were burnt to ashes and over hundred and twenty looted, killing nine including women and children burnt alive.
The persons arrested stayed for fifteen days in the house of a local Muslim Imam (Clergy of a Mosque) named Mohammad Yaseen and had fled immediately after the incident of Gojra.
It is as if the news regarding the misuse of Blasphemy Law will never stop. Lala Hassan an activist of the Peoples Resistance movement in Karachi narrated an incident about a woman being wrongly accused of disrespecting the Quran in Sanghar District of Sindh. Considering the ruthlessness of a raging mob, it could be her fortune that the police arrested her before the mob could delivery its judgment which was threatening her with dire circumstances.
According to reports a shopkeeper of the city had made a complaint with the Police that he had gone to recover a loan from the woman while talking she was holding the Holy Quran and refused to give him back his money. According to the complainant the woman put down the Quran with force, but interestingly it he told the media that she first kissed & embraced the holy book & after the talk with him, she then put down the Quran in a forceful manner
In the media frenzy surrounding the Gojra riots just a few days back, another similar incident happened in Sheikupura, Lahore which seemingly never caught the media limelight, remaining submerged within the inside pages of oblivion.
On the 5th of August a riot occurred in a leather factory which left two people dead when a mob of hundreds of people, attacked a leather processing unit near Muridke over alleged desecration of Quranic verses, the owner of the leather factory Sheikh Najeeb Zafar is among the dead. Police suspected that desecration issue had been used to instigate workers of East Leather Factory to settle some personal score. It most likely was the result of a simmering dispute between the management and workers over the wages issue.
A certain Qasim Mughal who was a representative of the workers, held a meeting with Najeeb Zafar to discuss the wages issue Zafar was rolling a calendar carrying Quranic verses at that time. Mughal in turn accused Zafar of desecrating the verses and conveyed his accusations to fellow workers and nearby villagers through his cell phone. It is said that Shabbir, a village prayer leader, played a major role in instigating the villagers through the loudspeaker. He announced that Zafar tore apart the holy book and threw its pages in a nearby drain.
Guest Blog by Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist.
The recent incidents in Gojra are a grim reminder of how existing half laws can be manipulated for personal and political ends. Besides loss of life, property or the reputation of the country, it also reflects an opportunist political system in which strange bedfellows can be espoused for political expediency and where rule of law can be applied selectively. Worse, it exposes false claims of the provincial and federal governments over constant surveillance of banned militant outfits in Punjab.
The entire trail from Jhang to Gojra, Mian Channu and Shantinagar is littered with similar incidents of religiously fanned hatred spearheaded by banned militant outfits. Time and again such incidents take place with impunity and remarkable alacrity. It is to question why the local administration is caught sleeping and why no preventive measures manifest themselves in pre emptive actions.
There is no doubt that the working relationship between the Federal Government and PMLN Government is dysfunctional. It took the Government of Punjab three days to move into a belated action despite warnings given by Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister of Minorities Affairs. The provincial government dismissed the factual reporting of the federal minister for over two days and moved reluctantly after all the damage had been done and Faisalabad-Karachi Railway traffic blocked for two days. The Chief Minister has repeatedly postponed his visit to the city citing security reasons. Meanwhile the frustrations continue to grow resulting in resignations of one federal and one provincial minister.
I share with you an email sent by Bishop Ijaz Inayat from the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Karachi where he talks about the killing of seven Christians in Gojram Please circulate widely so that people who matter must not pay only lip service every time but come down with a heavy hand on the culprits and prevent such incidents from happening. Compensations alone though cannot compensate for the fear and terror created in the hearts of our Christian and non-Muslim brothers and sisters.
In reference to the news, “Seven burnt alive in Gojra” printed in Dawn of 2nd July 2009.
According to Print, Electronic media and versions from the eyewitnesses there were veiled persons in the mob that attacked “Christian Town”, Gojra yesterday burning alive persons and creation tension both for public and the Government.
The Police, Administration and the people say they could not be handled. The vital question is, who were they and why they needed to hide their faces while they were protesting the desecration of the “Holy Quran”, thought to be noble cause by the Muslims.
Considering the recent ethnic tension that engulfed this city last week – The civil society in Karachi has joined hands to hold a rally for peace and harmony in the city – if you and your friends believe that these ethnicity based violence must come to an end then come join the Peace Rally at Mazar-e-Quaid on Saturday 6, December at 3:00pm, do bring a white flag and children
Everyone is welcome to join, please bring White Flags to show solidarity for peace
Organized by Joint Acton Committee & Peoples’ Resistance
Location: Mazar-e-Quaid, Karachi.