KARACHI, April 15: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement on Sunday staged a massive rally in the city against what it called the threat of ‘Kalashnikov Sharia’ of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid clerics and asserted that Islam did not allow enforcement of Sharia by force and Pakistan had not been created to be turned into a theological state.

In a telephonic address from London, party chief Altaf Hussain quoted profusely from the Holy Quran and Hadith to substantiate his attack on religious extremism. He said that extremists were defaming Islam and maligning the name of Pakistan and because of their acts of violence and terrorism, India, Afghanistan and other countries were describing Pakistan as a sanctuary of terrorists. He described the scholars supporting the Sharia of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa as “Ulema-i-Sou” and said they were misleading the country and the people.

The venue of the rally was the vast expanse of M.A. Jinnah Road from the Square of the Quaid’s Mausoleum to the Tibet Centre pedestrian bridge, jampacked by people who had come from all parts of the city and the interior of Sindh.

Mr Hussain spoke for more than one and a half hours, during which two helicopters were seen hovering over the area.

Referring to Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, the MQM chief alleged that the mosque and the Jamia, built on encroached land, had been occupied by armed terrorists and because of their actions the world was pointing fingers at Pakistan.

“For God’s sake don’t destroy Pakistan,” he said and termed the rally a referendum against the ‘Kalashnikov Sharia’. He said Ulema from different schools of thought had ruled that the enforcement of Sharia by force was against Islam.

He cited the Quaid’s speech of August 11, 1947 about equality of all citizens of Pakistan, whether Muslims, Christian, Parsi or of any other faith, and freedom for all of them to go to and offer prayers in their places of worship.

He said the rally demanded that Ulema should issue a Fatwa if construction of a mosque or a religious seminary on an encroached and illegally occupied land was justified?

Some Ulema belonging to different schools of thought, who were present at the rally, said it was illegal and that offering prayers or getting religious education in such mosques and seminaries was not allowed. They pointed out that Masjid-i-Nabavi, which was the first mosque built in Madina by Prophet Muhammad (SAW), was built only after the land had been purchased by the Prophet (SAW).

Allama Aun Mohammad Naqvi (Fiqah-i-Jafria), Dr Abdul Khaliq Pirzada (Barelvi school of thought) and Amir Abdullah Farooqui (Ahl-i-Hadith) came to the podium and said offering prayers in a mosque built on an encroached plot of land was against Sharia.

The MQM chief appealed to Ulema, intellectuals, women’s organisations and moderate, enlightened and liberal sections of the society to raise their voices against and expose the “Ulema-i-Sou” who were calling for demolition of girls’ schools and wanted to deprive women and children of their right to get education. He said the right had been given to women by our Prophet (SAW) who had declared the acquiring of education an obligation of every man and woman. The Muslims, he added, would not be able to catch up with developed nations if they did not get modern education.

He said the MQM was against the “Ulema-i-Sou” who were using the name of Islam to advance their vested interests. “Let us pledge today that we won’t be fooled by these people using the name of Islam for achieving their political objectives,” he said and urged the people to maintain sectarian harmony. “We want to make Pakistan a peaceful, democratic, welfare and liberal state.”

Mr Hussain said his party would support Ulema who would raise voice against extremists.