KARACHI: Two passengers were badly burnt and one Shia was separately shot dead in confusion after a previously banned sectarian outfit held a rally.
The Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat had just emerged after holding a protest rally at Nagan Chowrangi when it was stopped at Islam Chowk, Orangi Town by the police. The police said that a sensitive area lay ahead and the procession should divert its route. An argument ensued, prompting the police to fire in the air to control the crowd. Some men in the predominantly Shia-neighbourhood lying ahead thought that they were being attacked and fired shots in answer. As a result, in the exchange of fire a Shia man was shot dead.
After this fiasco, members of the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat burnt a bus full of passengers. Two people were taken to hospital in critical condition and according to last reports, one of them had died. The tension continued to prevail in the area by the time this report was filed.
The Sipah-i-Sahaba was banned during president Musharraf’s time and is one of the many outfits that resurfaced after renaming itself. In this case, the Sippah renamed itself the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat.
Earlier on, the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat vowed to hold a protest rally in Nishtar Park against the target killings of its members on July 2. The party had requested permission from the authorities, as is required, to protest at Nishtar Park on Friday. But the Sindh government turned it down. The party’s Karachi president Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqui negotiated with officials, who then agreed to let them hold it at Nagan Chowrangi in front of their central mosque, Masjid-e-Siddique-i-Akbar.
Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat chief Maulana Ahmed Ludhianwi addressed the rally. “During the last 15 months, 23 members from Karachi and 27 leaders from interior Sindh have been killed, including four central leaders,” he said. “The government must arrest the killers. If the government does not grant our demands, we will stage a protest at Nishtar Park on July 2 no matter what. If the government machinery tries to stop us, they will be responsible for the consequences.”
Leaders from all over Sindh came to attend the three-hour rally. “We have the strength, but we still choose to negotiate with the government,” said Ludhianvi. “This proves that we are not terrorists and not against the government.”
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazlur Rahman and JUI-Samiullah group leaders and Alami Majlis Tahafuz Khatm-e-Nabooat leaders also addressed the protest. JUI-S leader Maulana Mustafa Farooqui said that they would suppor the Ahle Sunnat. JUI-F’s Maulana Haleem announced that they would back them for the July 2 rally.
Khatm-i-Nabooat leader Qazi Ehsan condemned the government for failing to provide ulema protection. “The government should realise its responsibility and arrest the killers,” he said.
The Ahle Sunnat group had its own security force, mostly comprising volunteers who were armed. The police and Rangers were stationed there as well, and on rooftops.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 29th, 2010.