Thanks to PML-N, sectarian violence may revisit Punjab

Source: The News, February 27, 2010

Jhang fears return of sectarian violence
PML-N sees no harm in seeking banned outfit’s blessing

By Khalid Hurral & Babar Dogar

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?”



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