This is the third week in a row that my blog talks about the Gojra massacre. After a mob of Muslims killed 7 people and burned over 50 houses on allegations of blasphemy in the Punjabi town, there have been a series of reports of religious persecution.
In the case of Gojra, one of the earlier findings was that a group of masked men arrived from the neighbouring district of Jhang, which many believe is the hub of sectarian militant organisations such as the ‘banned’ Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. (Exactly how effective is a ban that allows these organisations to exist, especially given that we all seem to know their base?) The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan later confirmed that the massacre was engineered by the Sipah-e-Sahaba.
I have said it earlier, and reiterate now, that one of the things I found most terrifying about Gojra was that even if an external force had planned the attack on the minority group, it did not take long to incite hundreds of locals. The prayer leaders also happily jumped into the fray and helped the violence along by making inflammatory announcements from mosques urging people to ‘make mincemeat of the Christians.’
Once again, I am struck by the street power of this self-proclaimed army [of the Friends of the Prophet] after the killing of Ali Sher Haideri, a top leader of the Sipah-e-Sahaba. I also find it extremely disconcerting that everyone, from the most widely watched local private news channel to foreign news agencies, are relentlessly referring to the man as an allama. I thought allama is a title given to only the very highest scholars.
Haideri was shot to death along with one of his associates in Pir Jo Goth village of the Khairpur district in southern Sindh. Soon after, riots broke out in Khairpur and around 400 kilometres away from the site of the killing, here in Karachi. In Khairpur, protestors managed to shut down all shops and businesses or in effect, the entire city.
In Karachi, rioters burned buses, and shot in the air, injuring at least three people. Security forces quickly moved into the Naagan Chowrangi area, taking position on the rooftops of neighbouring buildings and the bridge. In the middle of the afternoon, there was cross firing between security officers and rioters on Naagan Chowrangi Bridge, which is packed with traffic at that time. For two hours, the people of the area were terrified. Those who were caught in traffic on the bridge abandoned their cars and motorcycles to lie flat on the roads as bullets flew around them. I don’t know about you, but it says something about the ‘banned’ Sipah-e-Sahaba’s influence in our metropolis to me.
Nice way to wake up from the August 14 weekend. Before the riots, one of the first things I saw on Monday morning was this front page story in The Daily Times. The Christian community has asked the Punjab government to secure an annual congregation in Sheikhupura district. The organisers for the three-day religious conference from September 4 to 6 have complained that locals are getting anonymous phone calls, threatening terror attacks. The callers threaten to reduce the congregation to ‘a pile of ashes as in the Gojra attack.’
Having been given ample warning, hopefully the provincial government will not leave the matter in the hands of the local government and administration, and will handle it directly. I can’t imagine they need another Gojra on their hands right now, where the local government and police did nothing to stop the assault on the Christian community.
Speaking of which, how can we point fingers at any terrorist groups, militant organisations, or anyone else, without first looking at the complicity of the state and the government? CNN reports that around 2,000 displaced Christians have been living in tents in Islamabad for the past three months. According to the report, the government kicked them off their land without any warning. The people believe it is because they are Christians. Government officials countered the allegation by saying they had been warned. But, I mean, really? Did they think no one would notice or hear about it? Two thousand people right in the middle of the federal capital in the middle of August, when the temperature is minimally a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Two people have already died of dehydration, starvation, poor health conditions – in other words, poverty.
Makes you wonder, when are the authorities going to learn?
Source: Dawn News