LAHORE: Prominent Sunni clerics have accused the provincial government of trying to prevent them from holding a ‘Peace Conference’ in Lahore scheduled and announced well in advance.
“Our caravans will reach Lahore, and when they do the government will see how powerful we are,” said Fazle Karim, chairman of the Sunni Ittehad Council, at a press conference on Saturday. Any attempt by the government to stop the convoys would be met with a sit-in, he said.
Sunni clerics formed the council a couple of weeks ago in response to the twin suicide bombings at Data Darbar in which dozens of people were killed.
They announced that they would organise a ‘Peace Conference’ in Lahore on the same day as the chehlum for the victims of the Data Darbar attacks. Karim said that only Sunni clerics were invited to the conference.
The Punjab government “is not sincere about peace,” he said. “Some elements in the provincial government are siding with the banned extremist outfits.
These elements have contacts with terrorists and now they are acting against the state,” he added.
He was thought to be referring to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, who has been repeatedly accused by various Sunni clerics of links to banned groups.
Karim also criticised Sirdar Zulfiqar Khosa, an advisor to the chief minister, saying the team he was heading in an investigation of the Data Darbar attacks was also “insincere”. “They have not recorded even a single statement by the injured or eyewitnesses,” he said.
He said the Sunni Ittehad Council had presented Khosa a list of 23 points on which to take action, but he had completely ignored it. The council had thus decided to boycott the team, he added.
Karim lamented the lack of security across the country. “Educational institutions, journalists, security forces ... everyone is insecure,” he said.
The chief justice of the Supreme Court should have taken suo moto notice and ordered an investigation into the violence in Karachi, where over a hundred people have been killed in the last five days.
He said Pakistan should find allies other than the USA, and should concentrate more on Pakistan’s national interest than America’s.
He criticised President Asif Zardari for not cancelling his visit to Europe while “the nation is dying due to floods and terrorism”.
Syed Riaz Hussain Shah, chief of the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, Sarwat Ijaz Qadri, chief of the Sunni Tehreek, and other Sunni clerics also attended the press conference.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2010.