Liberal-religious bonhomie over Peshawar carnage dissipates

Source: Published in Current Affairs on Monday, December 22, 2014

A day after they surprised the city by jointly condemning the Peshawar carnage, the liberal and religious elements returned to their old confrontation centred on Lal Masjid and its chief cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz on Sunday-

There appeared little let up in their narratives, though the civil society elements decided to take to a legal course.

“We have to adopt some legal way along with our peaceful protest to remove the maulana,” said Jibran Nasir speaking for the campaigners. He demanded that sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act be added to the FIR registered against the chief cleric of Lal Masjid for inciting sectarian hatred and violence.

“It is a defining moment and the movement can change the fate of Pakistan,” he said, appealing to the people to gather in number at Aabpara police station on Monday at 5pm for that purpose.

An advocate and human rights activist from Karachi, Nasir was in Islamabad when Maulana Aziz’s remark that he did not consider the 142 schoolchildren killed by the Taliban in Peshawar “martyrs” caused great resentment in the public.

Nasir said the civil society protest would be extended to Lahore and Karachi if the maulana was not charged under the anti-terrorism law.

On the other hand, the Jamiat Ahle Sunnat (JAS), an organisation of the heads of mosques of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, held a rally in support of Maulana Aziz in front of the National Press Club on Sunday.

Most of the faces in the rally were the same seen in the meeting that the Wafaqul Madaris Arabia (WMA), the managing board of the seminaries in the country, had organised outside Lal Masjid on Saturday and mingled with the protesting liberals.

On Sunday, the bonhomie was missing and the JAS crowd swore they would not allow any action against the Lal Masjid.

They also condemned the critical remarks of MQM chief Altaf Hussain regarding Lal Masjid.

Spokesman for WMA Maulana Abdul Quddus told Dawn that WMA displayed a positive gesture by holding a protest side by side the civil society against the Peshawar carnage.

“But the statement of MQM chief that Lal Masjid should be demolished is totally unacceptable,” he said, advising the MQM leader to “reconsider” his statement.

Qazi Abdul Rasheed, head of the JAS Supreme Council, told the rally that the religious segment of the society grieved the Peshawar carnage as it did the seminary students killed in Bajaur in a drone attack.

“Both were children of Pakistan,” he said.

“We will not tolerate any conspiracy against the seminaries because they are the ideological garrisons the same way the army garrisons are for the defence of the country,” he said, reminding that former military president “Pervez Musharraf tried to take action against the seminaries but he failed.” When Musharraf came to power, he recalled, there were 4,500 seminaries in the country. When he left they had grown to 14,500 seminaries.

“Today there are 20,000 registered seminaries in the country,” declared Maulana Rasheed triumphantly.

Like him, President WMA Islamabad, Maulana Zahoor Ahmad Alvi, who is also General Secretary of JAS, also condemned the Peshawar killings with the warning that “any action” against the mosques would be unacceptable.

Maulana Nazir Farooqi of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam accused the MQM chief of conspiring against the Lal Masjid establishment.

Naib Khateeb of Lal Masjid Maulana Amir Siddique added to the charge that “a British national (Altaf Hussain) has been doing politics on the blood of schoolchildren.”

“Instead of Lal Masjid management, action should be taken against Pervez Musharraf, who killed innocent people,” he said and warned, “We will protect the mosque at any cost.”

Other speakers at the rally condemned the registration of an FIR against Maulana Aziz in Karachi.

Workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek also held a protest rally at Aabpara Chowk against the massacre of students and teachers in Peshawar.

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