I find it incredibly ironic that the Government of Pakistan has now decided to carry out an “operation” against banned outfits that are operating in the province, following the deaths of at least 15 people in sectarian clashes in the city of Karachi in June alone. Banned outfits, like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a virulent anti-Shia party, which was banned during General Musharraf’s reign, and later re-emerged under the new name Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jaamat, have been operating with impunity not just in Karachi, but in various parts of Sindh, notably Khairpur, the district where the Chief Minister of Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah hails from.
In March this year, when we visited Khairpur, one could see SSP flags fluttering in the skies in Khairpur, along with their graffitti on the walls, near their sizeable madrassah. The SSP leader Ali Sher Haidri had been killed in August last year in Khairpur. According to local accounts, many of the area’s residents did not know how large the madrassah even was, until the police tore down the walls.
In August last year, following Allama Sher Haidri’s death, SSP held a protest outside the Karachi Press Club. Interestingly, even though they officially changed their name, the banners and the press release they handed out to journalists, bore the name SSP, signifying that the ban really made no difference – nor were the authorities taking any notice of the fact that SSP still operated freely. Slogans were shouted against the Shia community, and participants of the protest rally declared them as infidels. (See pictures from the August 2009 SSP protest here) Hate literature, inciting violence against the Shia minority is freely available outside SSP mosques for all and sundry.
What is disappointing, although typical in Pakistan, is that it takes the death of more than a dozen people before the government acts against banned outfits. The fact that “banned outfits” (I’m sorry, changing a party’s name does not signify a change in its ideologies or beliefs) operate with impunity, and have been doing so for several years, signifies that the government and the police is either blind, deaf and dumb, or that it has too much on its plate, or is, perhaps, hoping that the SSP stays under the radar, so that they don’t have to deal with them.
The problem is, sweeping problems under the carpet has never worked out well for Pakistan.
In other news, Hafiz Saeed is back. Dawn notes:
“It was the second public activity of Hafiz Saeed, accused by India of masterminding the Mumbai attacks, after being released from house arrest on court orders. He had taken part in a pro-farmers rally in Lahore last month. The two appearances suggest that Hafiz Saeed is seeking to return to the centre-stage after having been kept on the margins of politics in the wake of the Nov 2008 attacks in Mumbai. ”