ISLAMABAD : On the third consecutive day of the protest against Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid on Saturday, the deputy khateeb of the mosque along with representatives of the federation of seminaries joined the civil society activists to condemn the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar.
The civil society activists started their protest against Maulana Aziz after he refused to condemn the killing of schoolchildren three days ago.
For two days, the protest was held in front of the mosque during which the cleric threatened the protesters with dire consequences. As a result, the police registered cases against both sides.
On Saturday, when the civil society activists reached outside the National Press Club at 4pm, they were surprised to see Lal Masjid Naib Khateeb Maulana Amir Siddique and leaders of Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia (WMA) along with scores of students from seminaries already staging a protest against the Peshawar incident.
A large number of police officials were also deployed at the spot.
Deputy khateeb, other clerics join civil society to condemn Peshawar carnage
A police officer said his men would stand between both the groups to avoid any clash, but the civil society activists and the religious scholars talked to each other and decided to stand side by side as the goal of their protest was the same.
WMA spokesman Maulana Abdul Quddus said Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia was the biggest network with around 20,000 seminaries and two million students.
“WMA condemns the Peshawar incident and has held prayers for the children who were killed in the attack. We believe that all children who died during attacks in Peshawar, tribal areas, Karachi and other parts of the country are martyrs,” he said.
“No one can support the killing of innocent children and that is why Lal Masjid’s Naib Khateeb Maulana Amir Siddique is here today,” he said.
Later, talking to Dawn, Maulana Quddus said Maulana Aziz had also condemned the Peshawar incident but unfortunately only one sentence of his statement was highlighted.
President WMA Islamabad chapter Maulana Zahoor Ahmad Alvi, head of Jamia Qasmia Maulana Abdul Kareem, Mufti Shakeel of Jamia Mohammadia, Maulana Nazir Farooqi of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and other religious leaders also participated in the protest.
Maulana Farooqi said: “The Peshawar incident was brutal and condemnable. We stand by the parents of the schoolchildren killed.”
Jibran Nasir, one of the organisers of the civil society protest, added: “Though an FIR has been registered against Maulana Aziz, the investigation officer has not contacted the complainant. We will hold a protest in front of Aabpara police station on Monday if the police did not start preparing a challan against the Maulana.”
He demanded that a monument for the martyred children be built on the vacant plot in front of Lal Masjid.
He said: “We appreciate the step taken by the WMA which has condemned the Peshawar incident and declared that Maulana Aziz’s statement was in his individual capacity.”
Mr Jibran told Dawn that though the venue of the protest on Saturday was Lal Masjid, it was changed to the NPC on the request of the residents.
Literary figure Pervez Hoodbhoy said both schools and seminaries had been producing suicide attackers and terrorists, so there was need to change the education system.
Civil society activist Samina Nazir said the state should be careful while executing convicts because the judicial system of the country was faulty.
Intellectual Mosharraf Zaidi said it was a positive step that both liberal and religious segments were united in condemning the tragedy.
Human rights activist Farzana Bari said if the government was serious about eradication of terrorism, it should take action against those who did not condemn terrorism.
Educationist and human rights activist Ahmad Ali told Dawn that though he was the one who had decided to hold a vigil in front of Lal Masjid, he did not agree with those who chanted slogans against the management of the mosque and the military establishment.
“I believe that everyone has the right to have a difference of opinion,” he said
Defence analyst Asad Munir said though he had been participating in the vigils, he feared that after 10 days people would forget the incident of Peshawar and the media would also start looking for other issues.
“One month ago, we could not imagine anyone holding a protest against Lal Masjid, especially in front of the mosque. It is for the first time after 9/11 that people are united and are of the view that Taliban are the enemies of the country and those supporting them are not the friends of Pakistan,” he said.
Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2014