‘Why would anyone kill to preach religion?’

Published January 9, 2014
Rescue workers move one of six bodies found near a shrine in Gulshan-i-Maymar area from a hospital morgue in Karachi on January 7, 2014. — File photo
Rescue workers move one of six bodies found near a shrine in Gulshan-i-Maymar area from a hospital morgue in Karachi on January 7, 2014. — File photo

KARACHI: “Zalim hain, be-gunah ko maartay hain, [Cruel are these people; they kill the innocent],” said Faqir Ahmed while referring to the gruesome murder of six men inside the shrine of Ayub Shah Bukhari in Gulshan-i-Maymar a day ago.

Sitting inside a straw tent, known as Astana, at another shrine situated in Khuda Ki Basti, Ahmed was busy speaking to a group of young men who had travelled from the nearby Ayub Goth to inquire about a langar (free food distribution) scheduled for Wednesday.

Apart from the noise of traffic nearby, the atmosphere inside the Quyyum Shah Bukhari shrine was tranquil yet alarmed.

“We came to know about the murders,” 30-year-old daily wage earner Javed Hussain said, adding that, “like others we are clueless as to why anyone would kill in order to preach religion?”

Though no one inside the shrine knew the background or pedigree of the saint they revere, the men insisted that the one they had deep respect for was ‘banda-i-khuda’ and that should be a reason enough to visit his resting place.

Standing on the doorway of his Astana, as a strong smell of sandal wood wafted across, a young devotee of the saint, Yasir Ali, 27, said: “The saint, Ayub Shah, had three brothers — Shareef Shah, Kareem Shah and Quyyum Shah — whose shrines are situated across the city.”

But none of the men inside the Quyyum Shah shrine could recall where the shrines of the other two saints were located.

Faqir Ahmed interrupted to add that when the shrine of Ayub Shah Bukhari was built, there was not much population around it. That was 15 years ago when Ahmed just like many other faqirs had travelled from the interior of Sindh to Karachi.

“The only thing present was the chawkandi of the saint’s grave. What you see today is years of gradual construction that was mostly helped by the people, considering their reverence towards him,” he explained.

Noticing that he lives mostly near it, the previous caretaker of the grave asked Ahmed to shift to Quyyum Shah’s grave and take care of it.

Ahmed said he received an epiphany through his dream one night that he should travel to Karachi, and “refurbish” the grave of the saint. “Now, we are being shooed away from the people we respect the most,” he added, while the young devotees watched him speak.

On the other end of the road in Gulshan-i-Maymar, police constables were the only ones manning the shrine as it gave an eerie look amidst the gathering clouds around the hill.

Between the astana and the shrine were the torn and tattered pieces of the flags and the alam that was erected in the beginning of the shrine’s construction.

Blood spots inside the astana were still there, as the police constable tried to keep the only person visiting the shrine out of the way.

The surrounding areas near the shrine are either industries or half-built plots without guards looking after them. The constables mentioned that three years back there was quite a furore over “bulldozing the shrine out of the way of a Malir development project that was planned near its vicinity,” implying that the incident on Tuesday might be an attempt to “carry forward the same plan”.

But the SSP central clearly refuted it.

Though many questioned the Taliban connection when the news broke out, the police said that as much as people did not want to hear it, the Taliban were very much a part of the city now.

SSP Central Amir Farooqi said that earlier he had his doubts, but the chit lying under the dagger very clearly named the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). “And this is exactly what their modus operandi usually is: to inspire fear.”

He said the incident was in no way a row over property or anything else, “but what the Taliban clearly has differences with; the ideology behind Sufism.”

Also, he said that the areas surrounding the shrine, for instance Janjal Goth, Faqeera Goth and Khuda Ki Basti were in fact, “under Taliban’s control”.

Similar to this incident, was the beheading of a former navy man turned faith healer in Sohrab Goth, which the SSP said was in no way connected to TTP. “That was a case of animosity we didn’t see any connection with the TTP at all.”

In December last year, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s leader of the opposition in Sindh Assembly Faisal Sabzwari raised the issue of the beheading of navy man, Saleem Raza, in the provincial assembly, arguing that it “shouldn’t be considered an isolated incident”.

Speaking to Dawn, he said that he still believed in that. “What’s clear is that the Taliban and their connected organisations have strengthened in the past few years. Now the situation is such that they are handing down sentences in densely populated areas on the outskirts of Karachi,” he said.

About the ongoing targeted operations against criminals, Mr Sabzwari said: “What needs to be seen is that how much of that operation is targeted towards these elements.”

Meanwhile, as the devotees started leaving the shrine, Ahmed Faqir said: “He doesn’t know what Taliban means or what they do.” When he was told that the police were trying to reach their hideouts and arrest them, he said: “In ko malik puhunchay ga [they can’t escape the reach of God.”

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