More than 18 prominent Shia and Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) leaders and associates were arrested by the police in a crackdown across the city on Monday for allegedly preaching violence.
Heavy contingents of police initiated the crackdown around midnight on Sunday and raided houses in Kachi Mohallah, Kocha Risaldar and Mohallah Marviha. Female police officers also took part in the operation during which they entered houses and imambargahs to apprehend the accused.
Those arrested include Muhammad Ali Karbalahi, Zulfikar Hussain Zakir, Nawaz Ali Kiyani and Wazir Hassan Turabi – all members of the Imamia Jirga.
SSP worker Aurangzeb was arrested from his house in Kohati, Shah Faisal from Mohallah Fazal-e-Haq, and Irshad Hussain Haideri and Qari Sadeeq from Mohallah Garhi Banamarhi. Several others were arrested from other parts of the city as raids continued till the filing of this report.
While the police declined to officially comment on the matter, an official requesting anonymity said: “Sectarian violence has engulfed the city for the past few months. These leaders and workers are involved in preaching violence to their followers and we have been asked to arrest them.”
Imamia Jirga’s public relations secretary and the general secretary of the Muharram Committee, Mustafa Ali Akhunzada, however, criticised authorities for arresting Shia leaders and workers. He said midnight raids would only enrage the community, which is already targeted by sectarian violence.
“Let me assure you these tactics cannot force us to end our boycott against the administration until they stop targeting Shias,” said Akhunzada, adding that a military operation should be carried out in the suburban areas of Peshawar that have become a safe haven.
“Instead of arresting terrorists, the police are cracking down on Shia leaders,” he alleged, blaming authorities for having failed to protect them.
SSP district chief Maulana Muhammad Ismail Derwesh also expressed outrage. “Our activities were limited to preaching and we are not involved in armed violence against any one,” he said.
“They have arrested around a dozen of our workers and our leaders which is unjust. They are being sent to Central Jail DI Khan for one month. The authorities are pushing us towards a violent confrontation.”
Firdous Lala, the 68-year-old father of late SSP leader Aslam Farooqi, was also arrested, but later released after people protested. His son Aurangzeb, however, was whisked away, said Darwesh.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2013.