Mob rule wins again

Published: February 29, 2012

We are peaceful people and we act with the administration’s approval, were the words of one of the clerics leading the charge to shut down an Ahmadi religious centre in Rawalpindi. Surprise, surprise, they succeeded last week.

So is it safe to assume that the administration approves of violence against minorities? Stupid me, that question was already answered a month back, when a police officer decided to side with the mob instead of the law. In true testament to the competence and dedication to duty of the Punjab police, he lied to innocent victims of a mob threatening violence and allowed said mob to tear down security cameras, placed with the city administration’s permission, because the mob claimed to be ‘threatened’ by the threat the cameras posed to their privacy.

Either that or they were just afraid of being caught on camera while turning the area into the scene of a public lynching.

Meanwhile, some non-locals have complained about the religious centre being in a residential area. Among their complaints were the traffic problems created by the dozen-odd worshippers that came to the site and their request to not make noise around the centre during prayer times.

First of all if they have problems with a few cars, how many of them have complained about the number of restaurants, schools, and other businesses in residential areas? Surely there is more traffic around these five, six and seven-day-a-week businesses? Or is it just that they are owned by people of other faiths?

What about the mosques built on encroached land? Religious edicts from the time of the Rightly Guided Ones suggest that these structures be torn down, but I see no mobs attacking them. In fact when Pervez Musharraf tried to tear one such mosque down in Islamabad, it was taken as an attack on religion by the thekaydaars, because religious law and related precedents are apparently only applicable when it suits these chappies.

As for the request for silence, would a Sunni, Shia, Catholic, Protestant or any other faith appreciate it if people were disrupting their prayers?

And if they think the Ahmadis are being pushy, what do they have to say for (their own ludicrous behavior aside) renaming Al-Faisal Chowk near the centre as Khatam-e-Nabuwat Chowk? Last I checked the administration did not issue any such notification, yet ‘somebody’ plastered a sticker there proclaiming the new name.

With such close-mindedness on one side, it would be a battle simply explaining that Ahmadis using the word namaaz to refer to prayers is not a violation of the Constitution, as Sharjeel Mir, a businessman turned mob leader suggested in an interview with BBC Urdu. He also claims the site is unregistered and functions without state permission.

Sounds like somebody imagined up a personal copy of the Constitution, because a community representative highlighted that the site is tax-exempted by revenue authorities as a place of worship.

And as for the Constitution, not Mr Mir’s version but the real one, here are three articles from it discussing fundamental rights:-

8. Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights to be void.

(1) Any law, or any custom or usage having the force of law, in so far as it is inconsistent with the rights conferred by this Chapter, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.

(2) The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights so conferred and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of such contravention, be void.

16. Freedom of assembly.

Every citizen shall have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order.

20. Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions.

Subject to law, public order and morality:-

(a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion; and

(b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.

Keeping in mind that no law can derogate a fundamental right, and freedom of assembly is guaranteed to peaceful people, what grounds do the rightwing have to hinder their prayers? Sure there must be something in the ‘phantom constitution’, but as for real one, none.

There is no peace without acceptance of your fellow man. Not just tolerance, acceptance. Sunni, Shia, Ismaili, Christian, Hindu, Ahmadi, Sikh, Buddhist, Jew, or otherwise, nobody has the right to claim they are more Pakistani than another. Doing that only creates divisions, which in turn endangers this country’s already tattered social fabric.


 

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

A sub-editor on the Islamabad city pages of The Express Tribune, Vaqas holds a Master's degree in IR from Iqra University. Before joining ET, he taught history and was also a member of the editorial staff at Blue Chip Magazine. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

Comments are closed.