See here and here for the conspicuous role of the government and politics. The first report shows that the upcoming elections are also an effective element. The Milad un-Nabi gatherings and processions (celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad), as mentioned in the second report, are widely attended by people of all sects throughout Pakistan (and around the world). Traditionally, the main processions in many Pakistani cities have been organized and led by organizations belonging to the Barelvi Sunni sect.
Jhang fears return of sectarian violence
By Khalid Hurral & Babar Dogar, The News, February 27, 2010,
PML-N sees no harm in seeking banned outfit’s blessing
JHANG/LAHORE: A defunct sectarian organisation, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), is rearing its head again and its leader’s participation in an election rally in PP-82 constituency, along with Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, has sent shivers down the spines of citizens here, who have seen sectarian bloodshed for over a decade before it subsided in 2002.
The city has witnessed inauguration of development projects by the chief of the defunct organisation. One can see SSP’s flags across the city, and all this is going on under the nose of the administration and police.
In the last general elections, Jhang voters rejected the SSP candidate and, for the first time in two decades, the SSP failed to secure any seat in the district. However, people allege that MPA Sheikh Muhammad Yaqoob, who won from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q platform, switched over to the Pakistan Muslim League-N and started backing the defunct organisation. Yaqoob denies he ever patronised the banned organisation.
People allege that local authorities, especially police, were turning a blind eye to the resurrecting outfit and show of force by its gun-toting activists.
Officials deny this charge when they are asked to explain the unchecked display of firearms. Some of the officials, however, do admit that the situation is alarming, but they refuse to say anything on record.
Their fear is not unfathomable. A few months back when some miscreants, allegedly belonging to the banned party, burnt a train and the government and private offices and property, police launched a crackdown on the law-breakers. However, later, the transfers of the district police chief and the city SHOs put them in a passive mode and they started showing reluctance in continuing the investigation into the cases of arson.
When they are reminded that the law is being flouted publicly and they are inactive, their response is usually a counter question: “Do you think we are greater protectors of the law than the law minister. Go and put this question to the law minister and the PML-N lawmakers.”
Sources revealed that the district police have discharged many SSP activists from the Fourth Schedule. Nowadays, the SSP leaders can be seen moving in the city with masked gunmen around. DPO Sultan Ahmed Chaudhry told The News he had sought a report from the police concerned about the SSP’s activities. After getting the report, he added, he would be able to say anything on the issue. He said the police were performing their duties according to the law.
When asked how come development projects had the names of a proscribed outfit’s chief, District Officer Roads Aslam Khan claimed he never issued any orders to that effect. When contacted, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah admitted that the SSP was a banned organisation and majority of its activists involved in criminal activities had been nabbed by the law-enforcing agencies. He said the organisation still had a huge following, who are not involved in any criminal activity. About Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, he said he was a runner-up in the 2008 general election, and he had grabbed 45,000 votes against the PML-Q’s Sheikh Waqas Akram.
“If Maulana Ludhianvi was an activist of the banned organisation, why he was allowed to contest the 2008 election?” He alleged that PPP’s Federal Minister Tasneem Qureshi had invited the Maulana to a lunch at his Sargodha residence to seek his support for the PPP candidate in Jhang by-polls. He claimed that some provincial and federal ministers of the PPP had also visited the Jhang residence of Maulana Ludhianvi to seek his support.
Nevertheless, he said, Maulana Ludhianvi, on his request, had decided to support the PML-N candidate, Azam Chela, and made an announcement in this regard at a public meeting, which was also attended by him (minister).
The minister said the PML-N had made him the in-charge of the election campaign in Jhang and he was present along with Maulana Ludhianvi at the public meeting. Moreover, he said, Sheikh Waqas Akram was supporting the PPP candidate in the Jhang by-polls and he was behind all this propaganda, to win over the Shia community votes and to neutralise Maulana Ludhianvi’s support for the PML-N candidate.
He claimed that he was not afraid of the propaganda as he had done nothing illegal or wrong. He further claimed that Federal Ministers Qamar Zaman Kaira, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and all provincial ministers, including Senior Minister Raja Riaz, were striving to win the support for their candidate and indulging in propaganda against him. He stated that Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer had also announced a visit to the constituency.
The minister’s view that the SSP chief was an electoral candidate raises a serious question: “Isn’t it a dereliction of duty on part of our state apparatus that a defunct outfit’s leaders went through the pre-election scrutiny?”
Violence mars Milad celebrations in two cities
By M. Irfan Mughal and Mohammad Saleem, Dawn, Mar 1, 2010
DERA ISMAIL KHAN/ FAISALABAD: Dera Ismail Khan and Faisalabad districts were in the grip of tension following clashes and attacks on processions taken out on Saturday to celebrate Eid Miladun Nabi (peace be upon him).
A curfew was imposed in three tehsils of Dera Khan and Section 144 was imposed in Faisalabad.
Troops were deployed in the troubled Dheki town of Dera Khan after clashes between two sectarian groups.
Police and hospital sources said that seven people had been killed and 32 others injured in an attack on a procession and an exchange of fire between law-enforcement personnel and rioters.
Trouble started when the procession passing by a seminary came under attack. Witnesses said that two men in the procession were killed and five others injured.
Immediately after the incident, a charged mob attacked the seminary. A police contingent trying to bring the situation under control also came under attack and five people were killed and 27 others injured when police fired back.
The town was calm but tense on Sunday with troops patrolling the streets. The main Dera city, Proa and Paharpur tehsils were under strict curfew.
NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti discussed the situation with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on phone and appealed to him to cooperate with the government to promote sectarian harmony in the area.
According to a handout issued in Peshawar, Mr Hoti assured the Maulana that the government would take action against trouble-makers.
DIG Feroz Shah said that over 50 people had been arrested for firing at the procession and cases had been registered against them.
Officials said that a curfew had also been imposed in the adjacent Tank town.
The administration convened meetings of elders, Ulema and politicians to seek their help in maintaining peace in the town which has a history of sectarian clashes.
Police said a pick-up truck loaded with weapons was seized near the Cawar checkpost and a man was arrested.
In Faisalabad, four people were injured when a group of people believed to be hiding in Gol Mosque opened fire on an Eid Miladun Nabi (PBUH) procession in Ghulam Mohammadabad locality of the city.
Some men in the procession allegedly vandalised the mosque and pelted it with stones.
A Gol Mosque spokesperson said that people in the procession had provoked them by throwing stones at the mosque. After the firing, a large number of people besieged the Ghulam Mohammadabad police station and set more than 200 vehicles and motorbikes on fire.
The protesters also ransacked the police station, forcing the personnel run away. Official vehicles of Gulberg traffic sector were also torched by the mob. Police tried to disperse the mob with teargas, but failed.
The charged mob also pelted policemen with stones, injuring a few constables.
The protesters blocked the Saddar Bazaar Road, Latif Chowk and Chandni Chowk and burned tyres. A number of shells fired by police also landed in houses.
The mob also attacked and allegedly looted the house of Gol Mosque khateeb Zahid Mehmood Qasmi.
About 48 people belonging to both sects, including Mr Qasmi, were arrested.
Punjab Inspector-General of Police Tariq Saleem Dogar arrived in the city on Saturday night.
Officials of police and district administration held a meeting with Ahmed Ludhianvi, chief of the proscribed Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, and urged him to help calm the situation.
On Sunday, a mob attacked a mosque in Usman Town on the Millat Road and burned a motorcycle and a generator. Police arrested 12 people.
SSP (operations) Sarfraz Falki suspended Sargodha Road SHO Zahid Hussain for dereliction of duty.
Despite the imposition of Section 144, people belonging to the Gol Mosque sect took out a procession and held a meeting at the Clock Tower intersection.
The eight bazzars emanating from the Clock Tower remained closed.