In both Faisalabad and Dera Ismail Khan, religious zealots turned Eid Milad-un-Nabi celebrations violent leaving at least seven dead and more than thirty injured. The irony, and sheer lunacy, of this criminal violence is that there are those amongst us who are so convinced that they and they alone are the “best” Muslims of all, that they and they alone know what “true” Islam is, that they are willing and ready to attack – and even kill – even those who profess the very same faith as them. And all in the name of “saving Islam” … from other Muslims!
(News photos of the violence in Faisalabad that left property destroyed and burnt, including the charred remains of a copy of the Holy Quran inside seen inside a house which was attacked by a religious mob during the clashes)
Pakistanis hardly need reminding that the country is in the grip of religious intolerance and violence: the war against militancy has touched every corner of the country inflicting a terrible toll, and for a while certain areas were virtually ceded to the militants without a fight. But there is another, more insidious, religious poison that is spreading, largely unnoticed, across the country, and it is not quite as easy to explain as the territorial ambitions of the Taliban. That poison has pit Sunni against Shia, Deobandi against Barelvi, Muslim against religious minorities â€” and it defies easy categorisation. The only thing its various strands seem to have in common is a hatred for everything that is â€˜differentâ€™, where â€˜differentâ€™ is inevitably judged as an unacceptable deviation and therefore deserving of punishment, even death, in many instances.
Invariably â€” perhaps suggesting where the cure must first begin â€” a steady diet of dogmatic preaching is to be found wherever such violence occurs. In Faisalabad, the khatib of a local mosque was arrested on charges of inciting people to violence. It will take great political will but such violent elements need to be purged from the mosques and madressahs, for without that it will not be possible to roll back the tide of hate that is threatening to engulf the country… The infrastructure of hate that has slowly taken hold at the grass-roots level is really what needs to be dismantled. Further delay in initiating that process will only cause the problem to grow in magnitude.
The details of what happened on what was supposed to be a Holy and auspicious day, are gory but no longer unfamiliar, or even surprising. For those who might have missed them, here is a detailed report from The News:
DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Police and security forces on Sunday arrested over 100 suspects in a swoop launched after sectarian clashes during the Milad-un-Nabi procession and, subsequently, between protesters and the police in Dhaki village… At least, seven people were killed and 32 others sustained injuries in the violence and clashes between the protesters and personnel of police and security forces. Eyewitnesses said that a procession was taken out from the Bilal Mosque in connection with the Eid Milad-un-Nabi (PBUH) in Dhaki village on the Dera-Chashma Road.
After covering some distance, the students of a seminary of another sect blocked the road for the procession and did not allow them to proceed. The situation worsened when participants of the procession and the students exchanged hot words. Subsequently, the sources said, the religious students started firing at the procession in which Muhammad Irfan Kanju was killed on the spot while nine others sustained injuries… The sources said the students involved in the firing on the procession fled after the incident. However, the members of the procession took out a protest rally as a large number of people from the nearby villages thronged the place and joined the protesters. Eyewitnesses said a fierce clash between the enraged protesters and the police erupted after the former attempted to block the road and set the seminary and the house of the cleric heading it on fire.
The police, led by District Police Officer (DPO) Gul Afzal Khan, tried to stop the mob by blocking the road. However, the protesters did not disperse, which forced the police to use batons and fire teargas shells at the protesters. The protesters, the sources said, reportedly opened fire on the police in which Sepoy Sanaullah of the Elite Force, Sepoy Asmatullah of Paharpur police station and the DPOâ€™s security guard Tahir sustained injuries. The sources said the police and protesters exchanged heavy fire in which six people were killed and 32 others were injured. Those killed included Muhammad Hanif, Azizullah, Hafiz Alam Sher, Sanaullah, Hashmat Ali and Ahsan.
… Maulana Zahid Mahmood told journalists in police custody that the participants of the procession allegedly pelted the main gate of Gole Masjid with stones and used abusive language. According to sources, Gole Masjid Ghulam Muhammadabad was considered the main centre of banned Sipha-e-Sahaba.
FAISALABAD: Some unidentified persons opened fire on Eid Milad-un-Nabi procession near a mosque in Ghulam Muhammadabad on Saturday afternoon, injuring at least four persons seriously. Infuriated participants of the procession blocked the road by setting tyres on fire and later attacked the Ghulam Muhammadabad police station. They pelted stones and torched vehicles parked on the police station premises. More than 100 vehicles, including impounded vehicles, wagons, motorcycles and cars and motorcycles of the police officials, were set ablaze, while the criminal cases record of the police station was also burnt to ashes. However, a local official denied the earlier reports about torching of 150 vehicles and motorcycles. He confirmed that 50 vehicles and 10 motorcycles and record of the police station were gutted during the incident.
When the fire-brigade staff reached the police station, the furious religious workers pelted them with stones. The police have reportedly arrested four persons on charge of involvement in firing on Milad-un-Nabi procession and damaging the public property. However, their names were not disclosed by the police. After setting on fire the police station record, the protesters ransacked the house of Maulana Zahid Qasmi, looted valuables and set his house on fire. This caused serious damage to a gas pipeline in the area, which resulted in burning of a nearby house and two cars parked along the road. The furious protesters also burst into the Madrassa run by Zahid Qasmi, but the police took prompt action and got vacated the building.
Meanwhile, both factions of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, Sahibzada Fazle Karim faction and the Rasool Group, announced to observe a complete strike in Faisalabad on Sunday against the incident of firing on Milad-un-Nabi procession and asked the trade organisations to close down their businesses on Sunday against the incident. The JUP leaders also announced taking out protest rallies in Faisalabad and stage sit-ins at various points, including Ghanta Ghar Chowk.
Police have registered a case against 25 persons, including 15 top activists of different sects under 7-ATA and various sections of the PPC. The police have also arrested 10 people, including Maulana Ziaul Qasmi, general secretary of the International Khatme Nubuwwat Movement. Meanwhile, religious scholars staged a protest to condemn the attack on the house and seminary of Jamia Qasmia. The eight bazaars were closed as the protest demonstration entered the downtown area.
Addressing the protesters at Ghanta Ghar Chowk, Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi and Maulana Ilyas Chinioti termed the incident a conspiracy against peace of this city. Meanwhile, the Khurrianwala police have also booked 12 activists on the charge of displaying arms on Eid Milad-un-Nabi. Those booked included Bilal, Tanveerur Rehman, Naveed Zafar, Saleem, Naveed Taj, Rizwan Afzal and Abdul Ghafoor.
SARGODHA: About 12 people were injured in an attack on Eid Milad-un-Nabi procession at Chak 35/NB on Saturday. A complainant, Asif, told the Sadr police that dozens of people attacked the Eid Milad procession with sticks at the behest of Aziz. As a result, he, Faisal, Azhar, Atta Muhammad and others sustained minor injuries… Meanwhile, Markazi Milad Committee Convener Khalid Iqbal Musarrat demanded strict action against the attackers. In the meantime, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the IG Punjab to conduct an inquiry into the incidents, while the IG reviewed the situation.
ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik has also ordered a joint investigation to probe the incidents occurring on Saturday in Dera Ismail Khan and Faisalabad.