31 October, 2014 / 6 Muharram, 1436

The Jhang of Lashkars - 1

Published Jul 08, 2013 06:27pm

For whom the bell tolls

The 16th day of April in 1853 is special in the Indian history. The day was a public holiday. At 3:30 pm, as the 21 guns roared together, the first train carrying Lady Falkland, wife of Governor of Bombay, along with 400 special invitees, steamed off from Bombay to Thane.

Ever since the engine rolled off the tracks, there have been new dimensions to the distances, relations and emotions. Abaseen Express, Khyber Mail and Calcutta Mail were not just the names of the trains but the experiences of hearts and souls. Now that we live in the days of burnt and non functional trains, I still have a few pleasant memories associated with train travels. These memoirs are the dialogues I had with myself while sitting by the windows or standing at the door as the train moved on. In the era of Cloud and Wi-Fi communications, I hope you will like them.


enter image description hereBesides the salinity, the fertility of Jhang is being ravished by something else as well. How could a land with a Sufi heart allow the desecration of graves? Why is Jhang no more the city that it used to be? The answer to this question is in fact the answer to the existing mayhem of our state. Jhang is the story that spans from sectarian violence to the killing of foreign tourists.

To many minds, the problem started when a dictator tried to legitimise his rule in the name of religion, while others smell American involvement in it; there are few who take it as a Zionist conspiracy and yet others who blame India for this. But, the journey towards the truth is just as difficult as it is uncomfortable. An unbiased and incisive analysis reveals that as soon as Pakistan became a reality, religious parties started showing their force. The quarters that had once opposed the formation of the country, grew so powerful in a short span of time, that they enforced constitutional changes like the Objective resolution and summoned people to the parliament for passing a judgement on their religion. From the icons of Heer and Sultan Bahoo, to the fame of Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jhang has tread painful miles.

A group of historians traces the Shia community of Jhang to the time when Umer Bin Hafas was appointed the Governor, while another group believes that it was an influence of the Ismaili regime in Multan. Regardless of the two opinions, when Mehmood of Ghazni won over Jhang, the official historian recorded it as a victory for Islam.

With the British, came the colonisation schemes and lands were allotted. Due to the prevailing Baradari system, large portions of land were allotted to Shias who had most of their tenants as Sunnis (of Barelvi influence). Whether it had an economic undertone or the liberal mindset of the Barelvi branch, to-date the licence for Tazia in Jhang remains with the Sunnis.

When Pakistan came into being, a large number of refugees arrived at Jhang. Most of these immigrants came from the districts of Rohtak, Hissar, Gurgaon and Panipat and were staunch followers of the Deoband. They had left everything back home, save the dreams of a new land and the spirit for the revival of old faith. With the plunder of allotments and claims, the ideals for a newfound land were soon forsaken; however, the puritan ambition was strong enough to stay on. The universal remedy for homesickness, in case of immigrants, appears to be religion. Regardless of financial feasibilities, religious places develop faster in foreign lands.

A decade down the line, the demographic change was making its mark. The immigrant Deobandees initially frowned upon the liberal religious approach of Barelvis and then took it upon themselves to reform them. Interestingly, the first Manazra (religious debate) of Jhang did not take place between the Shia and Sunni but between a Deobandi and a Barelvi. The 50s saw, for the first time in Jhang, a Deobandi firebrand scholar slandering the landlords for being feudal and Shias. With one shot fired from this side, how could the other side refrain? Soon an act of contempt of the Sahaba was administered in the village of Hasso Balail by a local Shia landlord in 1957. That too, for the first time in the history of Jhang. As a result of these events, an organisation surfaced with the name of Majlis-e-Tahaffuz Namoos-e-Sahaba. A few peaceful years ensued and then started the vicious cycle of sectarian killings. The murder of a Sunni Imam of ShorKot in 1964 was the first of its kind in Jhang, but no one noted that apart from being a Sunni, he was a Muslim and a human being too. After a gap of three years, another Imam was killed in Rodoo Sultan, who also believed in the oneness of God and was born a human being before being raised a Sunni.

Apparently, the sectarian skirmishes started with the first of Muharram and subsided by the 1st of Rabi-ul-Awwal but then a subtle change started taking effect. The humility of the accent was being eaten up by hard talk. When the flash floods increased, the rage of the river finally spilled over the shores. The incident of Bab-e-Umar was not hard to foretell.

Out of the three entry points of Jhang, one was called Kheva Gate, in the memory of Kheva Khan, the father of Saheba. Tradition had it that every year on the seventh day of Muharram, a procession passed through this gate. Initially the name of the gate was changed to Bab-e-Umar and subsequently, both sides agreed not to mourn loudly in respect of the mosques en route. The mourners silently beat their chest and walked past the mosque. It was called khamosh matam.

In the Muharram of 1969, the city administration was extra vigilant in the wake of a volatile situation. It sought guarantees from both sides for not inciting violence. On the eve of the sixth of Muharram, a banner with instigating remarks was displayed on the route of the procession. The administration hurried up and saved the disaster by talking both parties to a peaceful solution. It was agreed that till the time the procession had not passed the mosque, the offensive wordings would remain covered. As soon as the procession reached the mosque, someone uncovered the banner. On seeing this, a participant of the procession, soaked a dirty cloth in the nearby drain and threw it at the banner. What followed next was the unprecedented violence. Had it not been the first day of Yahya Khan’s Martial Law, the killings would have never stopped at six.

The issue, however, was not solely an act of sectarian violence. The individual who uncovered the wordings and the individual who flung dirt on it, were both employees of a local political leader, unfortunately a Shia. Years after, the grandson of this Sial confessed that his grandfather wanted to bring down Col Abid Hussain’s rapport to avenge his defeat in 1946 elections. Other than clan politics, the rich of the city also added to this rift as they served the religion by paying off to their sect.

When Jhang went to polls after this incident, the traditional seat set up was totally upset. Dressed in black, the widows of the Bab-e-Umar incident had mourned through the streets and everyone voted for their sympathy.

But despite all this, the Shia Sunni issue remained on the back burner till 1974 as both sides were busy pushing the Ahmedis across the religious border. As soon as the Parliament declared Qadianis "Non Muslims", the venomous speakers directed their fury onto Shias. The Deoband scholars that once toured the districts to "gather support against Qadianis" were now visiting the same mosques to propagate against Shias. The self proclaimed guardians of religion always came up with a fresh threat to Islam. Qadianis, Shias, Barelvis, one can’t help but wonder who will be next?

(To be continued…)

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Muhammad Hassan Miraj is a federal government employee.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (27) Closed


Naushad Shafkat
Jul 08, 2013 07:19pm

Could we please have the option to view an entire article on one page?

Solitar
Jul 08, 2013 08:22pm

And the

Gulbaz Mushtaq
Jul 08, 2013 09:03pm

Yes.. I endorse Naushad Shafkat.. Could we please have the option to view an entire article on one page?

Gulbaz Mushtaq
Jul 08, 2013 09:23pm

You are absolutely right Sir, "the journey towards the truth is just as difficult as it is uncomfortable." Thanks for talking so loudly on this issue.

Gulbaz Mushtaq
Jul 08, 2013 09:42pm

This is great. It reveals the sad story of how Pakistan became a fundamentalist state from the land of sufis. Kudos to you on being so outspoken and unveiling the faces of culprits.

Farrukh Naqvi
Jul 08, 2013 10:32pm

Thank you for your writings...history needs to be preserved, no matter how distasteful it is. Maybe others would learn form it.

Zafar Malik
Jul 09, 2013 12:37am

Secularism in politics and secular way of thinking is the only answer.

Haider Masood
Jul 09, 2013 07:30am

very well written article.....may someday sanity prevails and we leave religion as a matter of personal choice

zia ur rehman
Jul 09, 2013 09:57am

for the first time, i have read communal conflict in jhang in its hitorical perspective. would like to read more.

Khan
Jul 09, 2013 10:13am

Thanks for taking up this issue which is destroying the existence of Pakistan. Till we didn't accept the problem we cannot fix it. Its true the same islamist who opposes the creation of pakistan are now extremely powerful and controls Pakistan. The only question I have in mind is the same deobandi and barelvi lives in India and the number of Muslims are also almost same as Pakistan then why these Lashkars doesn't flourish in India ? Nor sunnis are killing shias in india. Is there a problem of way of living in our part of the world? Or Pakistani instutions are not run by people from all over Pakistan but mainly by people from a single province who run the bureucracy and defence establishment hence the current state of Pakistan? I will wait for the second part.

Immad
Jul 09, 2013 11:31am

Deobandis are the same who declared Quaid e Azam an infidel and staunchly opposed creation of Pakistan terming it as evil work. Now they disguise in the name of Tableeghi Jamaat to polarize our society further.

Qaisrani
Jul 09, 2013 01:41pm

Oh, Jhang of Heer, Sahiban and many lovers! Jhang of Murshid Sultan Bahoo of my ancestors! Oh, Jhang, the land of love & peace and loving locals! How I weep when you frequently look like symbol of hate! How strongly I desire you to revert back to love & peace, Oh my Jhang!

Qaisrani
Jul 09, 2013 01:44pm

Oh, Jhang of Heer, Sahiban and many lovers! Jhang of Murshid Sultan Bahoo of my ancestors! Oh, Jhang, the land of love & peace and loving locals! How I weep when you frequently look like symbol of hate! How strongly I desire you to revert back to love & peace, Oh my Jhang!

Syed
Jul 09, 2013 02:41pm

We all follow same God, same Quran and same Prophet. Let's all live in peace and celebrate the differences and learn from each other. Stop the killing for the sake of Pakistan and Islam. Let us be a model country for the entire middle east, show them how we can live in an Islamic society, with tolerance and flourish education and development.

Mahmood
Jul 09, 2013 02:48pm

MHM, Please be cautious! now you are 'swimming' in the 'polluted' waters.

vijay
Jul 09, 2013 03:26pm

Also could we have the option of seeing the all the replies under every posts since it is difficult to correlate replies with posts in the present format.

janan
Jul 09, 2013 03:39pm

@Naushad Shafkat: Dawn.com want to make money from the Ads they displaying on separate pages.

salman
Jul 09, 2013 03:55pm

Writer seems much keen about just highlighting the brutalities of shia's. He should also highlight the cruelties of other sects.

Khan
Jul 09, 2013 07:39pm

Thanks for taking up this issue which is destroying the existence of Pakistan. Till we didn't accept the problem we cannot fix it. Its true the same islamist who opposes the creation of pakistan are now extremely powerful and controls Pakistan. The only question I have in mind is the same deobandi and barelvi lives in India and the number of Muslims are also almost same as Pakistan then why these Lashkars doesn't flourish in India ? Nor sunnis are killing shias in india. Is there a problem of way of living in our part of the world? Or Pakistani instutions are not run by people from all over Pakistan but mainly by people from a single province who run the bureucracy and defence establishment hence the current state of Pakistan? I will wait for the second part.

pittman way
Jul 09, 2013 10:19pm

@Khan: that's what I think also,the only answer I get, in India they are being rule by different people so they have to make a joint effort/unity to any reform/riot against them,after creation of Pakistan people from every denomination/sect came and every body are each other throat/hatred there is no body to neautralize it,just like Pakistanis who are living abroad they tend to live together irrespective of ethnicity/sect as they are facing same racial/islamophobia problem and if I am right Pakistan is the only Islamic country where muslim of every denomination lives i.e. sunnis,shias,Agha khanis/ismailis,Bohris,Qadianis,and God knows so many plus in other Islamic country they were being ruled/rule in a different way not like Pakistan where religion supress everything.

Akhtar Hussain
Jul 09, 2013 10:57pm

@Syed: You seem to have been born today!

Rihat
Jul 10, 2013 04:43am

As a tourist I have recently been to Faisalabad and I have noticed a couple of banners in some streets displaying on one hand "Sunni Kafir" and other banners saying "Shia Kafir" in retaliation I presume.

Therefore that would convincingly infer that there are no Muslims left in Faisalabad ....at least!

Pramod
Jul 10, 2013 10:08am

@Khan: india is a democratic country where Muslims are minorities So India would not allowed to these groups to do what ever they want. In Pakistan religion has always been the center of Power. So these groups run freely as the their handler are in power. Similar issue you can see in Middle east very frequently.

Umer
Jul 10, 2013 12:05pm

how can one have an article on jhang and do not mention it's most famous son, Abdus Salam. Jhang should have been famous for the land of love & progress, Heer and Salam rather than the hatred and violence it churns in forms of Lashkars.

asim
Jul 10, 2013 12:57pm

In conclusion , Ignorant Moulvis are the root cause of sectarian violence. Why Moulvis of major sects sit together and resolved the issues? But they always play with innocent people emotions and seed hatred in their hearts. There is no law in Pakistan for governing qualification of Moulvis. Allah safe us all.

akbar
Jul 10, 2013 02:28pm

@Umer: Read the previous blogs

Anees
Jul 11, 2013 11:51am

Thank you for the essay. I learnt a little more today towards "why Pakistan is what it is today". But I wish you had gone in deeper than you have.