Protests against Qadri’s execution turn ugly

Published: March 5, 2016
The Hyderabad Press Club was ransacked by protesters on Friday. PHOTO: SHAHID ALI/EXPRESS

The Hyderabad Press Club was ransacked by protesters on Friday. PHOTO: SHAHID ALI/EXPRESS

KARACHI/HYDERABAD/LAHORE/PESHAWAR: Embittered by this week’s execution of Mumtaz Qadri, supporters of religious parties vented their anger at countrywide protests that turned violent on Friday with the offices of several media organisations coming under assault.

Violence was reported in Lahore, Karachi, Hyderabad and some other cities as the protesters attacked offices of Aaj TV, attacked a DSNG of Express News and ransacked the Hyderabad Press Club, besides manhandling policemen, journalists and cameramen.

Supporting rallies: Amid city-wide protests, traffic comes to a standstill

The protesters laid siege to the Hyderabad Press Club for around two hours while demonstrating against the hanging of Qadri, who shot dead Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer five years ago.

Around a dozen media workers were beaten up and several others sustained injuries when they tried to escape from the building. Two reporters and a cameraman suffered fractures when they jumped from the first floor of the press club to save their lives. Seven more media professionals were taken to the hospital.

The vandals also burnt the reception and notice boards and broke all flower pots, mirrors and several glass doors inside the press club. “They kept hurling abuse at journalists challenging them to come out of hiding,” said Rashid Leghari, a reporter who hid with many others in one of the rooms.

The protest outside the club was organised by the Sunni Tehreek and Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Owais Noorani group). Two police mobiles were parked outside the club for security but the policemen were also beaten up.

Condemnations

The attacks drew condemnations from the prime minster and several journalist organisations. PM Nawaz Sharif and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid condemned the attack on media offices, terming them ‘tantamount to curbing the freedom of expression’.

The most incisive commentary on Mumtaz Qadri’s execution

The All-Pakistan Newspapers Society condemned the attacks, terming the ransacking of the offices of Aaj TV, Business Recorder, Express, Neo TV, Daily Naee Baat, AbTak and other media outlets an affront against the freedom of press.

Editors for Safety – an organisation of newspaper editors and heads of television channels – also expressed serious concerns, saying neither the government nor the protesters could force news content, according to their whims.

Countrywide protests

In Lahore, protesters beat up policemen and lawyers, damaged a security check post at the assembly chambers and a DSNG vehicle of a television channel while tearing apart the provincial government’s advertisements along The Mall Road during a rally from Data Darbar to Charing Cross.

In Karachi, protesters attacked the Aaj TV head office near Guru Mandir, drawing widespread criticism from journalists and the government as well. The Electronic Market in Saddar was forcibly shut by the demonstrators. An Express News DSNG van covering the main protest rally on Numaish Chowrangi was also attacked.

Many smaller protests were staged in different parts of the metropolis, including Korangi, Nagan Chowrangi, Nazimabad, Orangi Town, Ittehad Town, Malir and Federal B Area.

Mumtaz Qadri laid to rest amid tight security

Demonstrations also continued for the fifth consecutive day in various parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. In Peshawar and other districts, several rallies were staged after Friday prayers with the banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat joining the street agitations. Rallies were also staged in Charsadda, Timergara, Mansehra, Abbottabad and Shinkiari.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2016.

  • Fazl summons MMA meeting to decide future strategy

    March 05, 2016
    Print : National
     

    ISLAMABAD: The meeting of all religious parties’ chiefs has been summoned today (Saturday) in federal capital to chalk out further strategy over the current situation of the country after the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri and passage of women protection bill in the Punjab Assembly.

    JUI Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has contacted leaders of Mutthida Majlis Amal’s leaders including Sirajul Haq, Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami, Maulana Awais Ahmed Noorani of JUP-Noorani, Professor Sajid Mir, Ameer Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadees and Allama Syed Sajid Naqvi, head of Islami Tehreek. All the leaders have agreed to chalk out a joint strategy on current issues.Responding to a query, Fazlur Rehman said that religious parties had continued contacts with one another and a consultative meeting would review the future strategy.

Media houses attacked amid pro-Qadri protests

PROTEST rallies and sit-ins were held across the country on Friday against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, amid scattered attacks on media houses and facilities that left over half a dozen media people injured with their equipment burnt or destroyed.

The most violent and brazen attack was witnessed at the Hyderabad Press Club where an angry mob set fire to its furniture, computers and other equipment and injured four media persons during a protest demonstration staged by several religious parties against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri.

Also, the offices of Aaj News in Karachi and Lahore came under attack, the digital satellite news gathering (DSNG) vans of Abb Takk and Aaj News were pelted with stones in Lahore, media crew were thrashed in several major cities, law-enforcers were beaten up and motorbikes parked outside the Hyderabad Press Club were ransacked.

The violence caused traders to shut markets in several towns before sunset amid panic and fear while massive traffic jams were witnessed on many roads because of angry protests which blocked major arteries of cities for several hours. While law-enforcement personnel brought the situation under control, they failed to convince traders to reopen their businesses.

A witness to the violent protest in Hyderabad said: “During the over-half-an-hour incident, Press Club manager Ali Ahmed was beaten up.”

The media persons who received injuries while trying to keep rioters away included Qasim Khan of 92-News, Niaz Vighio of Daily Mehran, Faheem Babbar of Sindh TV, Farhan Khan of APP, Umair Rajput and Shahid Malik, the witness said, adding that all the injured were later admitted to hospitals.

The call for protests in the second largest city of Sindh was given by different organisations. The prominent among them was Milli Yakjehti Council which staged a demonstration at Hyder Chowk, while Jamiat-i-Ulema Pakistan (JUP) and Pakistan Sunni Tehreek held rallies outside the Hyderabad Press Club.

In Karachi, one of the main protest rallies was organised by Sunni Tehreek on the M.A. Jinnah Road. Workers and leaders of the party marched from Jama Cloth Market to Numaish traffic intersection where they joined the sit-in staged by several other religious parties mainly representing the Barelvi school of thought.

At the Lasbela traffic intersection, the Jamaat-i-Islami held a demonstration, which was attended by number of workers and senior leaders of other parties as well, after Friday prayers. The demonstration was addressed by Karachi JI chief Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rahman who condemned the execution and called it a move of the government only to appease the west.

The situation turned violent minutes after the sit-in at the Numaish intersection was called off and the head office of Aaj News, situated close to sit-in site, came under attack.

At the same time, angry youngsters burnt tyres on the road connecting M.A. Jinnah Road with Saddar. Before personnel of law-enforcement agencies intervened, traders in Saddar markets pulled down shutters amid heated arguments with charged youths carrying sticks and stones.

Within half an hour, major business centres including electronics market in Saddar and wholesale markets along the main M.A. Jinnah Road were closed. The intervention by Rangers and police, however, failed to restore traders’ confidence as markets remained closed even after the dispersal of the protesters.

The pro-Qadri protesters blamed law-enforcement agencies and the administration for provoking the violence by not allowing them to stage peaceful demonstrations and sit-in against the execution.

In Lahore, the situation remained grim with attacks on the DSNG vans of Abb Takk and Aaj News channels near Anarkali. Stones were also hurled at policemen near the Lower Mall. Witnesses and officials also confirmed attack on Aaj News office at Anarkali before the protesters moved on to participate in the sit-in which continued even after the sunset.

The leaders of Sunni Tehreek and Sunni Ittehad Council led the protest march which caused traffic congestion on the Mall Road and Ferozepur Road. All businesses along the route of the protest march remained closed, as several traders’ bodies also joined the protest announced by the religious parties.

In Rawalpindi, several religious groups staged rallies on Peshawar Road, Murree Road and Dhamial Road before converging at the Committee Chowk.

Protest rallies were also held across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas after Friday prayers against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri.

In Mansehra district traders observed a strike. The main rally, jointly organised by the JI and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F), was taken out from the central mosque on Abbottabad Road.

Rallies were also staged in Charsadda bazaar, Tangi, Umarzai, Sar Dheri, Mandani, Hari Chand, Dhaki, Tarnab, Nesata and others towns of the district on the call of JUI-F, JI, Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat and others parties. The protest rallies were also held in Malakand, Mohmand Agency and Battagram.

Media organisations condemn attacks: The attacks on the news channel offices, DSNG vans and the Hyderabad Press Club attracted a strong reaction from media and journalist associations, including Karachi Union of Journalists, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA).

The PBA expressed its strong concern while Editors for Safety, an organisation of newspaper editors and heads of TV channels working for safety and protection of journalists, showed the same reaction to a series of attacks on journalists and TV crews in different cities.

The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) called it an “attack on free media” and called for tolerance and decency, while holding the organisers of the rallies responsible for such incidents.

“The media and its policies cannot be influenced or suppressed through state or non-state forces. The CPNE demands action against those elements who are responsible for Friday attacks,” said a CPNE statement.

Imran Gabol in Lahore, Aamir Yasin in Rawalpindi and Mohammad Hussain Khan in Hyderabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2016

  • In Qadri’s fate, Barelvis see their redemption

    March 03, 2016
    Print : Karachi
     

    Key Barelvi groups agree to stage joint protests against Qadri’s execution under banner of Tanzeemat Ahle Sunnat

    Karachi

    Although religious groups belonging to various schools of thought have condemned the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, political analysts believe that Barelvi groups are using the opportunity to unite on a single platform and jointly show their strength to counter the growing influence of Deobandi and Ahle Hadith groups in the country.

    The central leaders of key Barelvi parties and groups have agreed to organise joint protests under the banner of the “Tanzeemat Ahle Sunnat (TAH)” instead of doing so separately.

    Unlike the Deobandi and Shia groups, the Barelvi parties have been unable to reach a consensus over specific issues.

    However, a key Karachi-based Barelvi leader, confirming the revival of the alliance, said the Qadri issue had helped in bringing the groups together and setting aside their differences.

    “In future, all main Barelvi groups will make joint efforts and remain united on issues such as the execution of Qadri and the blasphemy law,” he told The News requesting anonymity.

    The central leaders of many Barelvi groups have expressed their desire to form the TAH, which will announce the future strategy for the protest campaign.

    “The alliance will not have a body and a shura comprising the heads of all groups will make decisions,” he maintained.

    Divisions within

    Internal organisational differences have caused the emergence of many Barelvi groups in the country.

    The Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), a key Barelvi political party that won seats in Karachi in the 1970s, was divided into two groups – one led by Shah Owais Noorani, son of prominent Barelvi figure late Shah Ahmed Noorani, and the other by Sahibzada Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair, a former MNA of Hyderabad.

    The Sunni Tehreek, a Barelvi group, too has been facing internal rifts in recent times. Ejaz Sarwat Qadri heads its stronger faction, which has recently renamed itself as the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek.

    Muhammad Bilal Qadri, son of ST founder Saleem Qadri, has formed his own faction after developing differences with Ejaz Qadri and others.

    The Haji Hanif Tayyab-led Nizam-e-Mustafa Party, the Hamid Raza Qadri-led Sunni Ittehad Council, and the Shah Turabul Haq-led Jamaat Ahle Sunnat are the prominent ones among other Barelvi groups.

    However, all Barelvi groups are unlikely to become part of the TAH.

    Deobandi, Ahle Hadith influence

    Religious parties appear to be divided on a sectarian basis in terms of staging protests against Qadri’s execution.

    Although religious parties of all schools of thought have condemned the execution, only Barelvi groups are in the forefront in staging protests.

    Security experts say that Deobandi, Ahle Hadith and Shia groups’ strength stems from their role in Afghanistan and support from Arab countries and Iran.

    However, Barelvi groups have never been part of jihadist or militant activities.

    However, they became violent on the issue of the blasphemy law, especially for Qadri’s release.

    Muhammad Amir Rana, the director of the Pak Institute of Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based security think tank, said in the last three decades, Deobandi religious groups have gained in strength in the country because of several reasons, especially their involvement in the Afghan insurgency while Barelvi groups took a defensive position.

    “Exploiting the issues related to blasphemy, Barelvi groups, especially the ST, have been showing their strength by organising protests,” he added.

    Ali Arqam, a Karachi-based journalist, wrote in a tweet that the Barelvis’ show of power was meant to materialise it in a political clout which for some quarters was desperately needed for countering the Deobandi influence.

    Published: March 5, 2016
    Due to protest rally traffic has been stuck at MA Jinnah Road Karachi. PHOTO: ONLINE

    Due to protest rally traffic has been stuck at MA Jinnah Road Karachi. PHOTO: ONLINE

    KARACHI: Protests by religious organisations over the execution of Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, led to massive traffic jams in the city on Friday evening.

    Qadri, an Elite Force policeman in Taseer’s security protocol, gunned down the former governor on January 4, 2011, in Islamabad’s Kausar Market for his support of a woman accused of blasphemy. Qadri, the self-confessed killer, was executed at Adiala jail early Monday morning.

    The entire country witnessed massive protests and rallies over the execution on Monday and Friday was no different, as protests were held by different religious organisations in various parts of the city. A ban on pillion riding had already been imposed in the city amid fear of potential backlash and a ban on holding rallies and protests was imposed but to no avail.

    The central protest was organised by the Ittehad-e-Ahle Sunnat, an alliance of several parties representing the Barelvi school of thought, and was staged at Numaish Chowrangi. The protest was attended by thousands, including a large number of women and children holding placards and portraits of Qadri.

    The alliance comprises the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Noorani), Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnat, Sunni Alliance, Sunni Ittehad Council and others. Apart from the central protest, small protests were also held in various parts of the city including Korangi Crossing, Nagan Chowrangi, Nazimabad, Orangi Town, Ittehad Town, Malir and Federal B Area. The main rally started at Numaish Chowrangi after the Friday prayers and the participants later marched towards Tibet Centre on MA Jinnah Road where the leaders of religious organisations adopted various resolutions before ending the protest by 8pm. Of the many demands shared with the crowd, the leaders insisted that alleged blasphemer, Aasia Noreen, should be hanged, ‘fake cases’ against leaders and scholars made by the police for holding protests should be withdrawn and, by Saturday, the Pakistan Muslim lLeague should be called the ‘mujrim [culprit] league’.

    Protest turns violent

    The enraged protesters also attacked Aaj TV office in Guru Mandir – an act that was condemned by journalists’ bodies as well as the government. An Express News DSNG van that was covering the rally also came under attack at Numaish Chowrangi.

    “Protesters moving towards Numaish Chowrangi broke windowpanes of one of the cars parked outside Recorder House,” Soldier Bazaar SHO Irshad Soomro told The Express Tribune. The protesters also used tyres to block the road during the protest and attempted to close the shops in Electronics Market, causing panic in the locality. The market was immediately closed by shopkeepers. However, no major untoward incident occurred.

    Unknown offenders

    The protesters claimed that the mob perpetrating acts of violence in the city was not associated with them. “Some members of banned outfits who were covering their faces had joined us and started trouble, which was also attracting others to join them,” said Saleem Noor, a leader of the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek. “I even caught such a man but he managed to escape before I could hand him over to the police,” he said.

    Traffic diversion

    Due to the massive traffic jam, particularly on MA Jinnah Road and the roads leading to it, the traffic police have created traffic diversions for commuters from Peoples Chowrangi and Soldier Bazaar localities.

    Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2016.

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