A curfew is in place in the city of Rawalpindi since midnight Nov 15 (Aashura) after a clash between two groups in relation to the harassment of an Ashura procession in Rawalpindi’s Raja Bazar area. So far eight people are reported to have been killed but the rumors place the figure much higher.
It is sad but could have been anticipated. The religious temperature is constantly on the rise. When the religious sentiments rise, intolerance towards other religions takes place and clashes are a normal consequence.
The State of Pakistan and all concerned are failing to realize such a simple postulate. Religion will have to given a back-seat and not supported at the State level. If the State does it, then it becomes powerful and threatens other religious factions. And since all in Pakistan are armed so violent clashes as seen in Rawalpindi on Nov 15 are experienced.
If we have to save Pakistan and desire to lessen violence in our polity then the State should immediately stop interfering in all religious matters and secularize as much as possible, without uttering the word `secularism’ as it has become a dirty word in Pakistan. The same goes for all our intelligence agencies and the armed forces.
It is being said that a maulvi at one mosque enroute to the Aashura procession had been threatening for days that people should not permit the procession to pass in front of the mosque and defended Yasid and his colleagues who killed Imam Hussain. It should not be surprising that our police failed to do anything to put a stop these sermons or to devise a strategy to avoid the impending clash.
When the procession passed, the worshippers from the mosque pelted stone and perhaps followed it with firing. The processionits retaliated and people died in the ensuing clash.
Police officer Afzal Hussain told the news agency AP that participants of a procession beat to death three men from a seminary in Rawalpindi for insulting them as their procession passed the religious school. The procession members dragged the harassers out of the seminary after hearing the shouted insults and beat them to death, Hussain said.
All entry points into Rawalpindi are blocked, resulting in traffic chaos and choking parts of the highways leading to Islamabad.
Over 40 people were also reported wounded in the clash on Friday.
Incidents of arson were also reported during the time of the clash in which shops in a cloth market in the city’s Raja Bazar and a seminary were set alight.
Television cameramen and members of the security forces were also caught in the crossfire.
“So far we can confirm the death of eight people from the violence. We received a total of 44 injured people and 13 of them had gunshot wounds,” Qasim Khan, a doctor at Rawalpindi’s district hospital, said.
The clash triggered a stampede in the procession which caused more casualties.