The spontaneous protests that began outside the Lal Masjid on Thursday quickly snowballed into a wider movement against Taliban apologists and extremists everywhere.
As the protesters pressed for the acceptance of their demands and an FIR was lodged against Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz, Dawn spoke to some of those present at the sit-in outside Aabpara Police Station and asked them about their motivations for coming out.
Jibran Nasir, lawyer and rights activist
“I came to Islamabad for a conference, but then the Peshawar tragedy struck and everything changed. The next day, Lal Masjid cleric issued a statement that I couldn’t stomach and I decided that rather than going back to Karachi, we should protest. We want to reclaim our mosques, our communities, our cities, indeed our entire country from the extremists. We can no longer allow anyone to stand on at a pulpit and preach hatred. We will no longer stand by and watch people like Abdul Aziz use the name of our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and our religion to perpetuate violence. I call upon the people of Islamabad to come out of their homes and reclaim their city.”
Arieb Azhar, musician
“I heard about this event on Facebook and saw that it was not being organised by any political party or non-governmental organisation, but ordinary people from all walks of life, so I decided to be a part of it. I believe both our nation and our religion are being hijacked by people who don’t have any respect for humanity. People like Abdul Aziz are acting like spokespersons [for the enemy] and openly telling the world that they support militancy and organisations like ISIS. We must stand up against them.”
Nadia Naviwala, academic
“This has been a season of protests in Islamabad but I never came out to join any of them. But we see now that the response of the state is disappointing to say the least, so the people need to respond themselves. I believe the people of Pakistan must take back their streets, their public spaces. Once they do, they will be able to wield political power as well. Today, I saw so many people I know outside the Lal Masjid; these are not people who normally come out of their homes to protest, so I know that this [issue] is something that really spoke to people.”
Zeeshan Mansoor, musician
“I was deeply moved by the Peshawar tragedy and wanted to do something about it. But I felt a sense of helplessness and futility in just lighting candles at vigils. Coming here to reclaim this mosque is taking concrete action, which is why I decided to join in. I’ve lived on the street next to the Lal Masjid all my life and it always disturbed me knowing that hatred and extremism is being preached right here in my neighbourhood. This is why I decided to come out tonight.”
Published in Dawn December 20th , 2014