Vigilant on dengue but poor on security
Zubair QureshiSunday, November 17, 2013 - Rawalpindi—Friday clashes between two groups during a Muharram procession near Raja Bazar could be prevented if the Pindi administration had taken preventive measures and secured the route.
According to a senior official of the Punjab government, Rawalpindi administration remained occupied rather over-occupied with anti-dengue drive and paid little heed to the sensitivity of the Muharram and Youm-e-Ashur.
“Even a week before the Youm-e-Ashur, Commissioner and DCO were busy in meetings with health officials over dengue surveillance and reported to the Punjab chief minister about it in a live video conference,” said the official. The conference was also attended by the local PML-N leaders and the one-point agenda was to monitor anti-dengue operation in the city. “No one raised the subject of maintaining peace in the city during Muharram processions.”
Pakistan Observer on November 10 had cautioned against the lethargic attitude of the Pindi administration warning it might result into serious catastrophe. On that day, the newspaper had reported: “With Ashura less than a week away, Rawalpindi administration is yet to ban fiery clerics, both Shia and Sunni, in order to ensure the city’s peace and religious harmony during that solemn occasion.” However, no such preventive measures were taken and city saw worst Shia Sunni clashes in its history claimed more than eight lives. Around 40 persons were wounded. A couple of statements and visits by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and members of provincial Aman Committee did not prove fruitful in face of much-trumpeted anti-dengue drive.
The violence appears to have erupted when an Ashura procession coincided with Friday sermon at a nearby mosque. Had the city administration convinced the elders of the Shia sect or the Sunnis to change their respective time of the procession or Friday prayer, the situation could be avoided, said the senior official. DCO Sajid Zafar Dall when contacted said the city administration had taken all the preventive measures but a handful of rogue elements took advantage of the Friday prayer coinciding with Muharram procession on a city route. He denied allegations of oversight and insisted it was all because of the miscreants who wanted to destabilize sectarian harmony and peace in the city.
An eyewitness told Pakistan Observer he could see dead bodies of eight persons lying in the mortuary of DHQ Hospital. “All of them were students of Madrasah Taleem-ul-Quran. These students were brutally killed in the presence and weapons of police and for two hours rescue teams were stopped from operation. Students were burnt after firing and later a cloth market Madina Market was also set on fire.”