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Monday, November 28, 2011

EDITORIAL: Murder in Muharram

Whenever an occasion even remotely religious in nature comes round in Pakistan, everyone braces themselves for the potential dangers ahead. That the occasion — Muharram — is one that is specially revered by Shias is all the more cause for worry and security concerns. These concerns were quickly realised in the very beginning of the holy month of Muharram this year when Karachi was targeted by an apparent sectarian crime. A protest rally taken out by members of the Sipah-e-Sahaba near Numaish Chowrangi turned violent when its members started firing indiscriminately into a Shia camp that had been set up in that area as part of a Muharram procession. Two people were killed and some 11 people were injured in the incident. It is fortunate that the police arrived on time at the scene as the assailants were apprehended. However, a mob gathered and demanded that the gunmen be handed over so that they be delivered some ‘mob justice’. As we all know, after the Sialkot lynching case, such action has seriously negative repercussions. The crowd grew quite rowdy and had to be diffused after a round of baton charging. The enraged crowd torched vehicles and created a riot. Muharram has only just begun.

In light of how Muharram has come and gone in past years with violence and bombings taking place at venues and processions where Shias have gathered to commemorate the occasion, it is a wonder that our security and law enforcement agencies still leave so much to be desired. There is always potential for trouble in Muharram with so many hate groups against the Shia community thriving in Pakistan, Sipah-e-Sahaba being one of them. Why was there no security in place at a very likely target such as this Shia camp? Why were law enforcement bodies so obviously missing in action that members of a hate group were able to fire into the crowd and kill and maim so many people? Authorities are well aware of the risks that many religious communities face in this country yet they still have not done enough to prevent sectarian strife. Agreed, the security forces in our country have been stretched very thin due to the war that is raging in the tribal areas and the urban centres but that does not mean that the many crimes against different sects in this country go ignored. One need not remind our law enforcement agencies of the kind of hate Shias face in Pakistan — the brutal murder of Shia Hazaras in Balochistan is a case in point. When they can be gunned down on just about any day of the year, what makes our security agencies feel that they can relax on an occasion of specific importance to the Shia community?

The malaise of sectarian killings is not confined to the boundaries of any specific area or metropolis. It is a whirlpool of brutality that knows no limits. The rampant running amok of groups such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba, which are allowed to hold rallies in the cities of this country, is an example of how we are leaving behind any last remnants of civility and gradually falling into the abyss of barbarity. Such fanatical Sunni groups are waging their own war against the state and the law enforcement agencies seem unconcerned. Instances such as this one in Karachi, right at the beginning of Muharram, ought to serve as a warning to our security agencies that more such attacks could be right round the corner.

Daily Times

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