LAHORE: The Tahaffuz Namoos-i-Risalat Mahaz (TNRM), a grouping of eight Sunni Barelvi parties, has announced a protest for February 14, raising concerns about a potential repeat of scenes five years ago when rioters ransacked Lahore during a Valentine’s Day protest.
TNRM secretary general Muhammad Ali Naqashbandi announced the new protest during a rally in front of Data Darbar on Sunday, but the decision was made at a meeting of the mahaz member parties earlier in the day.
“We will mark February 14 as a black day, contrary to the ‘followers of the West’ who observe the day as Valentine’s Day,” said Naqshbandi. The protesters will also voice support for the blasphemy laws.
He said Valentine’s Day should be discouraged in Muslim countries like Pakistan, otherwise “the so-called modern elements” would convert the country into a secular state.
The Khairul Umam Foundation Pakistan, a TNRM member, will host a seminar on Tahaffuz Namoos-i-Risalat a day before the rally to build momentum.
TNRM spokesman Ziaul Haq Naqashbandi said they would also host a conference at Aiwan-i-Iqbal to raise awareness among the masses about the perils of celebrating Valentine’s Day.
The spokesman insisted that there would be no repeat of the violence that accompanied the 2006 rally, which protested at the blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) that appeared in European newspapers, as well as Valentine’s Day. “There was unrest at the protest but that was created by saboteurs following their own agenda,” he said, referring to 2006. He said that the TNRM would condemn the incidents of 2006 at the Aiwan-i-Iqbal conference. They would also condemn General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, who had introduced various “un-Islamic traditions” to Pakistan during his rule.
Muhammad Musaddaq, a teenager, felt that the TNRM protest would serve to alienate the religious parties from the public rather than bring them closer. “So what if some couples exchange gifts on that day? They are politicising these small events just to project themselves as pious and religious and to make their presence felt,” he said.
City Division SP Shahzad Asif said that the police would draw up a comprehensive security plan for February 14. He said that keeping in view the violence at the rally five years ago, they would deputy additional security on The Mall this yeat.
Two young men were killed and 20 injured during the 2006 protest. The protesters set fire to a number of buildings including the Punjab Assembly, banks, restaurants, a telecom company’s office, a cinema, a theatre, and several shops and fuel stations. They ransacked some 500 vehicles, mainly cars, and burnt at least 75 motorcycles and 10 cars. They also broke traffic signals on The Mall, Hall Road, Lakshmi Chowk, Egerton Road, Bhati Chowk, Ferozepur Road and Multan Road.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2011.