PAKISTAN: Religious extremists attempt to create a bloodbath in Sindh province by the use of false blasphemy charges against Shiites
Though the police have exonerated all five persons falsely accused of committing blasphemy they have failed to take any actions for their protection. This is particularly important as no action whatsoever has been taken against their accusers who are members of the militant Ahle Sunnat Waljamat. Regrettably this is another example of the policy of appeasement of the government towards religious fundamentalists who want to mold society to their way of thinking. It is likely that in the coming days, weeks and months Shia places of worship will come under attack and many people will be killed in unnecessary and unprecedented sectarian strife.
Five villagers, including four young men, were implicated in a false case of committing blasphemy by a banned Islamic militant group. On January 22, a number of armed persons from Ahle Sunnat Waljamat, the new version of the banned militant organization, the Sipahe Sahaba, tried to provoke sectarian violence in Chandia village, Hyderabad district. They appeared on the streets of Hyderabad city, the second largest city of the Sindh province, and started firing their weapons into the air, compelling the shopkeepers to close their businesses.
The act of hooliganism continued for two days. They were demanding that the five Shia persons from Chandia Goth who burned the effigy of Hazrat Umer, the second Caliph of Islam (very dear to the Sunnis who are opposed to Shia sect) be handed over to them. The five persons, Mr. Akram Chandio, 50, Master. Fayyaz Chandio, 16, Mr. Ayaz Chandio, 23, Mr. Shakil Chandio, 23, Mr. Mushtaq Chandio 22, were booked by the police on the complaint of committing blasphemy and were charged with 295-C and 298- A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Two persons including a child, Fayyaz, were arrested but the other three young men, Ayaz, Shakil and Mushtaq, were not arrested as they were participating in a workshop conducted by a NGO at Karachi. The people of the village handed over the two accused to the police to avoid any attacks on the villagers.
The police conducted their investigation and found that no such incident had ever taken place in the village. The First Information Report (FIR) was made 'C class', which means that no crime has been committed and the police investigation was sent to the Anti Terrorist Court for final withdrawal.
It is appreciated that the local police carried out their duty independently and found that the case of blasphemy was fictitious. However no case has been registered against the bigots, particularly the divisional commander of Ahle Sunnat Waljamat (ASWJ), for registering a false complaint before the police and misusing the Blasphemy law in an attempt to instigate sectarian strife. The authorities must be happy that the police have averted the bad situation and avoided sectarian killings and bloody attacks on religious places. Perhaps the government of Sindh is too naïve to understand that once the blasphemy is charged it will never be taken back by the fundamentalists, even if the court exonerates the accuse of charges of blasphemy, and ultimately the victims are murdered or have to leave the country.
There are many examples where the accused persons were murdered after release from the courts and even a judge of the Anti Terrorist Court had to leave the country after receiving threats from religious bigots when he announced the death sentence on the killer of the former governor of Punjab, Mr. Salman Taseer.
The Muslim commander of the ASWJ and his militants are still operating to send a message to the people of Chandia village who are predominantly Shia and have burned down the Alam of Hazrat Abbas, a symbol of the Shia sect. They had also threatened the villagers that when the situation turned in their favour they would return. The four young men accused of blasphemy are living in fear and avoid going outside their village as they find they are being followed by mysterious persons. Furthermore, any person from the Chandia village is suspected of being a Shia and is therefore a potential target.
There is a strong need to provide protection and safety for the residents of Chandia village and the Shiites in the province. Firm action must be taken by the authorities so as to prosecute the divisional office bearers of the ASWJ for filing the false case of blasphemy in an attempt to create sectarian violence.
In Balochistan province extremists were successful in creating sectarian killings which, over the course of three years has led to the deaths of 800 Shia Muslims (the Hazara community) and to date the government has been unable to control the violence. Similar extremist groups, elated by the success in Balochistan are now attempting to create a similar situation in Sindh province. The incident of Chandia village is just a rehearsal for the bloodshed they plan to unleash.
It has been consistently reported that the government of Pakistan is turning a blind eye to the religious extremist who, for the sake of their uncivilised and biased cause, would create a bloodbath within the country.
The authorities must take strong precautionary steps to stop the sectarian violence in the interior of Sindh province before this bloodbath takes place.