District governments throughout the country have been assuring citizens that they were taking ‘foolproof’ measures to ensure tight security to the Shiite community during Muharram. Under threat are Azadars (mourners) and participants who gather at majalis and processions marking the martyrdom of Hazrat Hussain at Karbala. Large contingents of police in Lahore have been deputed to all imam bargahs and procession sites. The main procession on 10th Muharram, from Nisar Haveli to Karbala Gamay Shah will have a ‘four tier’ security to ensure no untoward incidents take place.
Muharram has been practiced in the subcontinent ever since the arrival of Timurlane 800- 1,000 years ago. And yet, now Muharram brings with tension…the knowledge that some citizens will probably die, that some hardliners are gearing up with karbala-like designs of their own.
Article-20 of the Constitution of Pakistan clearly states, “Every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion”.
Far from the right to propagate, citizens of Pakistan are now reluctant to openly identify with a certain group in public, scared that they might actually be the ‘minority’ in that setting.
The situation thus demands that certain precautions be taken.
Yesterday, a Shiite gathering, that had not been given the licence to take out a ziarat procession, attempted to do just that. The police stopped them at the barrier but they tried to push past it. Some ‘conscientious’ Sunni Muslims in the area decided that the police needed help in the matter and brought guns to the scene. Six policemen and three civilians were shot at in the foray and had to be taken to Mayo Hospital.
Though it is deplorable that a community, that constitutes 30% of our population, needs security to practice its religion, the fact remains that no one is above the law. The city government had issued licences to carry out processions. Areas have been demarcated according to the security risk and imam bargahs in areas of high security risk have been denied licences for processions.
What with the TTP on the warpath, security has had to be tightened. Already there have been incidents of sectarian violence in Gujranwala and Karachi this month.
The Shiite community must keep its head down and observe Muharram within the confines of prescribed security measures. It is unconstitutional, inhumane and unfortunate- the entire nation should feel ashamed for allowing the current state of affairs to continue- but that is the way it is.
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