Category Archives: extremism

Lahore, the Policed City: Barbed Wire, CCTV Cameras, Electric Fences, and Dolphin Squads

This article was originally posted here

By Sabrina Toppa

Amid the deterioration of law and order across Pakistan, daily life in its second-largest city has given way to hyper-securitization.

An aerial view of Lahore, Pakistan, from Wazir Khan Mosque. Image credit: Aima Yusaf Jamal

An aerial view of Lahore, Pakistan, from Wazir Khan Mosque. Image credit: Aima Yusaf Jamal

We’re the last generation that’s seen a Lahore that was not paranoid,” said artist Naira Mushtaq, sitting in a restaurant in Pakistan’s second-largest city. Known as “the city of gardens,” Lahore’s lush greenery and Mughal-era gardens have lent it a vibrant, placid character over the centuries, as the cultural capital of Pakistan has long managed to avoid the violence so pervasive in other cities.

However, in March 2016, a Pakistani Taliban faction targeted crowds at the city’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, killing at least 78 people and injuring more than 300 on Easter Sunday. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar took responsibility for the attack, citing Christians as the primary target. The incident spurred a government crackdown on militants in the Punjab province, the country’s most populous state, as well as an aggressive securitization of its parks—some of the most open and vulnerable areas of the city.

With more than 800 parks to protect in Lahore, the city’s Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) stepped into overdrive to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew, temporarily shut down the largest parks, and install barbed wire, high walls, and CCTV cameras in the city’s most public areas. “We are trying to bring the security arrangements up to the mark as early as possible,” said PHA Deputy Director Shahzad Tariq in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

The security quagmire also prompted the government to dispatch elite-cadre security officers, called the Dolphin Force, across the metropolis to ensure swift mobilization of an emergency task force. Wearing dark uniforms atop motorcycles, the team is expected to ensure that law and order is maintained in a rapidly growing city.

Lahore1

High boundary walls and fencing have emerged throughout Lahore’s public and private spaces.

Lahore2

A police car stands sentry in front of the gate to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.

lahore3

A man talks to policemen at Gulshan-e-Iqbal, the day after a deadly suicide attack killed more than 75 people and injured over 300. Image credits: Sabrina Toppa

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Lahore Updates 16-10-2014

Dengue virus claims first life in Lahore

LAHORE: A 26-year-old patient suffering from dengue breathed his last on Friday, becoming the first person to have died from the virus this year in Lahore.

Awais was among the 44 patients in Lahore who have been diagnosed with the dengue virus, which has now infected hundreds of people across the country.

The total number of dengue infected patients now stands at 386 in Punjab alone.

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Lahore High Court Upholds Death Penalty of Aasia Bibi

Members of the Pakistan Christian Democratic Alliance march in support of Aasia Bibi, 2010. Arif Ali—AFP

Blasphemy convicted woman’s lawyer vows to appeal the ruling before Supreme Court.

The Lahore High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy four years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.

Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Islam’s Prophet during an argument with a Muslim woman. “A two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court dismissed the appeal of Aasia Bibi but we will file an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” said her lawyer Shakir Chaudhry.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 percent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence.

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Trade display: SAARC fair to be held in Lahore

The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) announced that it will organise the 12th Saarc Trade Fair at the Expo Centre, Lahore from January 30 to February 1, 2015.

This will be the third Saarc trade exhibition hosted by Pakistan and first of its kind in Lahore. Exhibitors from Saarc member countries and its observer countries will exhibit a range of products at the exhibition, TDAP press release said.

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PTA unearths illegal gateway exchange in Lahore

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in its ongoing efforts to control grey trafficking unearthed another illegal gateway exchange in Lahore.

According to details, a successful raid against the grey operators was carried out along with Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team at Nain Sukh and Shahdara areas of Lahore, a press release said on Monday. During the raid, an illegal VoIP exchange comprising of six illegal gateways, 24 ports, one PC, one LCD, three network switches, three routers, three line switches, PTCL modem and hundreds of SIMs were confiscated.

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Pakistan’s Identity Battle Plays Out in Lahore

Bhagat_jpg_1225585g

The battle for Pakistan’s identity is playing out in Lahore’s streets and – oddly, on its thoroughfares and intersections. On 23rd March, this year, a group of civil society representatives gathered at Lahore’s Shadman Chowk to commemorate the 82nd death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, a Sikh freedom fighter renowned for his revolutionary struggle as part of the independence movement, and who became stuff of legend when he was hanged by the British in 1931 after a brief but eventful insurrection against colonial rule. The gathering, however, was disrupted by members of a religious group which was holding a protest aimed at denouncing the idea of renaming the chowk after Bhagat Singh, simultaneously.

The chowk and the adjacent area used to be Lahore’s central jail during the British Raj, and Bhagat Singh is believed to have been hanged at the site of what is now Shadman Chowk.

Late last year, a group of Lahoris made progress in getting local officials to rename a busy traffic circle for Bhagat Singh, a Sikh revolutionary who. They see it as a chance to honor a local hero who they feel transcends the ethnic and sectarian tensions gripping the country today — and also as an important test of the boundaries of inclusiveness here.

But in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, questions of religious identity also become issues of patriotism, and the effort has raised alarm bells among conservatives and Islamists. The circle was named in 2010 for Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Muslim student who coined the name Pakistan in the 1930s, and there was an outcry at the news that it might be renamed for a non-Muslim.

“If a few people decide one day that the name has to be changed, why should the voice of the majority be ignored?” asked Zahid Butt, the head of a neighborhood business association here and a leader of the effort to block the renaming.

The fight over the traffic circle — which, when they are pressed, locals usually just call Shadman Circle, after the surrounding neighborhood — has become a showcase battle in a wider ideological war over nomenclature and identity here and in other Pakistani cities.

Although many of Lahore’s prominent buildings are named for non-Muslims, there has been a growing effort to “Islamize” the city’s architecture and landmarks, critics of the trend say. In that light, the effort to rename the circle for Mr. Singh becomes a cultural counteroffensive.

“Since the ’80s, the days of the dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, there has been an effort that everything should be Islamized — like the Mall should be called M. A. Jinnah Road,” said Taimur Rahman, a musician and academic from Lahore, referring to one of the city’s central roads and to the country’s founder. “They do not want to acknowledge that other people, from different religions, also lived here in the past.”

A recent nationwide surge in deadly attacks against religious minorities, particularly against Ahmadi and Hazara Shiites, has again put a debate over tolerance on the national agenda. Though most Sikhs fled Pakistan soon after the partition from India in 1947, the fight over whether to honor a member of that minority publicly bears closely on the headlines for many.

A push to honor Mr. Singh has been going on here for years. But it was not until the annual remembrance of his birth in September that things came to a head. A candlelight demonstration to support renaming the traffic circle had an effect, and a senior district official agreed to start the process. As part of it, he asked the public to come forward with any objections. The complaints started pouring in.

Traders of Shadman Market, the local trade group led by Mr. Butt, threatened a strike. Chillingly, warnings against the move were issued by leaders of the Islamic aid group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, largely believed to be a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clerics voiced their opposition during Friday Prayer.

The issue quickly became a case for the city’s High Court, which said it would deliberate on a petition, initiated by Mr. Butt and a coalition of religious conservatives, to block the name change. That was in November, and the case still awaits a hearing date. The provincial government has remained in tiptoe mode ever since. “It is a very delicate matter,” said Ajaz Anwar, an art historian and painter who is the vice chairman of a civic committee that is managing the renaming process.

Mr. Anwar said some committee members had proposed a compromise: renaming the circle after Habib Jalib, a widely popular postindependence poet. That move has been rejected out of hand by pro-Singh campaigners.

Mr. Rahman and other advocates for renaming the circle paint it as a test of resistance to intolerance and extremism, and they consider the government and much of Lahore society to have failed it.

“The government’s defense in the court has been very halfhearted,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer representing the activists. “The government lawyer did not even present his case during earlier court proceedings.”

The controversy threatens to become violent. On March 23, the anniversary of Mr. Singh’s death, police officers had to break up a heated exchange between opposing groups at the circle.

Mr. Rahman and the other supporters have vowed to continue fighting, saying it has become a war over who gets to own Pakistan’s history.

“There is a complete historical amnesia and black hole regarding the independence struggle from the British,” Mr. Rahman said, adding of the Islamists, “They want all memories to evaporate.”

 {Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/asia/plan-to-rename-traffic-circle-provokes-outcry-in-lahore-pakistan.html?ref=global-home&_r=1&}

Ayodhya, learn a lesson in peace from Lahore

SHAEED GANJ

Here is a lesson from history for those insisting that the Babri Mosque site be handed over to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party who insist on building a temple in its place because they believe a Ram temple existed there, Times of India reported.
In Lahore’s famous Naulakha Bazar there still exists the Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj Singhnian which earlier housed a mosque built in 1722. Though the existence of the mosque — demolished in 1935 — had never been doubted, the Privy Council ruled in 1940 that Muslim rights over the property had ceased since the 12-year time during which it could have been restored to them had elapsed.
The judgment of the Privy Council survived Partition.
In rejecting the demand of Anjuman Islamia for restitution, the Privy Council said that since no one had sued within a statutory period to eject the person possessing adversely the property belonging to the wakf, plaintiffs “born 100 years later” could not claim any rights. “The land cannot be recovered by or for the mutawali and the terms of endowment can no longer be enforced,” it said.
The litigation over Shaheed Ganj was very similar to the one being contested over ‘Ramjanambhoomi’. Shaheed Ganj came under the Sikhs after Lahore was occupied by them in 1762. Sikh rule ended only in 1849, after British annexation. A part of the mosque was turned into a shrine for Bhai Taru Singh, who had suffered religious persecution. When the British came in 1849, the mosque was still with Sikhs.
Then litigation began. In 1850, a case by Nur Ahmad, claiming to be a descendant caretaker of the masjid, came to nothing as he had been long out of possession. On June 25, 1855 Ahmad brought another suit against the Sikhs, which was also dismissed.
In 1925, the Sikh Gurdwaras Act was passed and the Shaheed Ganj Gurdwara included as a Sikh shrine. Various parties made claims to the gurdwara but the Sikh Gurdwaras Tribunal held that it stay with a committee of management for the notified Sikh Gurdwaras at Lahore. But on July 7, 1935, the building of Shaheed Ganj was demolished, the minutes of Privy Council saying “by or with the connivance of its Sikh custodians”, leading to riots and disorder in Lahore.
Another plaint was made on October 30, 1935, against the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. But this was a curious plaint for it made no claim for possession of the property or ejectment of the defendants or for restoring it to its hereditary owners. It asked for a relief “claiming a declaration that the building was a mosque in which the plaintiffs and all followers of Islam had a right to worship, an injunction restraining any improper use of the building and any interference with the plaintiffs right of worship and a mandatory injunction to reconstruct the building.” This was dismissed by the district judge and later by the high court in 1938. Finally, it came to the Privy Council.
The Babri Mosque, was a mosque in Ayodhya, a city in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India, on Ramkot Hill (Rama’s fort). It was destroyed in 1992 when a political rally developed into a riot involving 150,000 people, despite a commitment to the Indian Supreme Court by the rally organisers that the mosque would not be harmed. More than 2,000 people were killed in ensuing riots in many major cities in India including Mumbai and Delhi.
The mosque was constructed in 1527 by order of Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India and was named after him. Before the 1940s, the mosque was also called Masjid-i-Janmasthan. The Babri Mosque was one of the largest mosques in Uttar Pradesh, a state in India with some 31 million Muslims. Although there were several older mosques in the surrounding district, including the Hazrat Bal Mosque constructed by the Shariqi kings, the Babri Mosque became the largest, due to the importance of the disputed site.
It is still a disputed site.

 

Stop Lahore’s Talibanisation

Raza Rumi

The worst has happened. Data Darbar, which defined the contours of peaceful Islam for a millennium, has been desecrated in Lahore. Its markets have been attacked and its minorities live in fear after the Ahmadi massacre. Last year, the petrified traders of Lahore’s Hall Road burnt objectionable CDs after receiving threats from extremists. A year later, low-intensity blasts took place in the crowded Hall Road — a market for electronics and kosher and non-kosher DVDs. This week, two internet cafes were targeted in densely populated areas of Lahore and some time back Peeru’s was also bombed. Reports have suggested that the cafes had received threats from unidentifiable numbers asking them to stop their businesses as they were turning into hubs of ‘immoral activities’. Just because no one died there, media attention has been patchy. A younger female colleague told me how tailors are hesitant to take orders for sleeveless shirts and other designs that may offend the purist dress code. The militants are employing tactics of social control used in Swat. It cannot be brushed under the carpet anymore. Prior to 1947, Lahore was a cosmopolitan city with a discrete culture of inter-faith harmony, with a reputation for the best education and socio-cultural movements. After its provincialisation, the resilient city re-emerged as a vibrant centre of progressive politics, avant-garde art and extraordinary literature. Since the 1980s, Lahore is a city with formidable infrastructure and boasts of great public spaces, especially parks. The innate openness and tolerance of this metropolis could not be subjugated by growing extremism. Continue reading

Suicide Bombers Strike Sufi Shrine in Pakistan

K.M.Chaudary/Associated Press

By SABRINA TAVERNISE and WAQAR GILLANI

:”Suicide Bombers Strike Sufi Shrine in Pakistan”,”description”:”Militants in Lahore struck Pakistan’s most important Sufi shrine, killing at least 35 people.””By SABRINA TAVERNISE and WAQAR GILLANI”:”July 1, 2010″,

ISLAMABAD, July 1 — Two suicide bombers struck Pakistan’s most important Sufi shrine on Thursday night, a devastating attack by hard-line militants on the moderate, more flexible blend of Islam that is practiced by most Pakistanis. Continue reading

Terrible news from Lahore – extremists are back in action

Raza Rumi

Two horrific incidents took place in Lahore today. First, the blasts in the busiest of streets – Hall Road frequented by thousands of people. The moral brigade had been objecting to and threatening the shop-owners against selling CDs, DVDs as they somehow lead to decline in morals and of course challenge the puritanical worldview of the Islamists. Now, a warning was sent through two low intensity blasts. Lahore’s Talibanisation nightmare might be turning into a reality.

Second, the famous Shezan brand is under attack – the reason: it is owned by an Ahmedi. After killing them in the villages and their places of worship, their right to engage in commerce (a basic right by the way) is being violated. This persecuted community has never been targetted so badly in the recent years.

Lahore – a peaceful, towering cultural centre of yore is now under direct attack by retrogressive forces while the Punjabis continue to deny the existence of religious extremism in their midst. When will we wake up – once the city is destroyed?

Markets, mosques and roads are becoming unsafe while we sit and watch the reality horror shows in our homes. How long will the homes be safe?

Express-Tribune reports: LAHORE: Twin low intensity bomb blasts hit a music and CD market in Lahore on Saturday evening, injuring 11 people and creating panic in the area, police said. Continue reading

TALIBAN THREATS ASIDE, THE SHOW GOES ON IN LAHORE

Despite the threats from Taliban, the show goes on in Lahore. Click on the link below to watch an interesting report about threats and difficulties faced by artists and theater workshops. Must watch:  http://vjmovement.com/truth/542

Lahore Bombings: Witness Audio Interview

Cross-posted from my personal blog

My cousin Usman was at ‘Moon Market’ in Iqbal Town last week when twin explosions went off. I asked him to narrate what he saw, heard and felt on that horrendous night. This interview is completely in Urdu, so I apologize if you can’t follow it. It meant a lot to me, since I was asking Usman to dig up the most troubling moments of his vibrant, youthful life so far, but I commend and salute him for being brave and recounting the events for the sake of sharing.

I’ll try doing an English transcript sometime. Excuse the slight sounds of kids playing in the back- my nieces are visiting.

AUDIO LINK: Interview with Usman Ghauri on the Moon Market Blasts

Say a little a prayer for Lahore

 

By Ahmad Rafay Alam
The only thing as incredulous as the recent announcement by the Government of Punjab — it intention to construct a highway through the heart of Lahore — was the recent statement of the CEO of Fashion Pakistan Week that their glorified display of clothes was a “gesture of defiance towards the Taliban.”
Our fashion industry is as much of an industry as the Holy Roman empire was holy, Roman or an empire. Our designers are talented without doubt; but to suggest that parading scantily clad men and women down a runway behind the bunkers and barricades of a five-star hotel in Karachi is an act of defiance is, well, really stretching the limits to which the “security situation” can make a fool out of us. Continue reading

Pakistan police targeted as attacks kill 15

By Mubasher Bukhari

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked police offices in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Thursday and a car bomb exploded outside another in the northwest, killing at least 15 people after a week of violence in which more than 100 people died. Continue reading

Time To Bring Mullah On Board

The horrific tragedy in Lahore has done little to either bring the country together. There is the usual condemnation; people voice their anger, especially if they are in front of the camera or talking to a reporter. The talking heads on television channels repeat the same mantra – India with the help of Israel and America wants to destabilize Pakistan because of its nuclear capabilities, etc. In other words, nothing new in analyzing the causes and no effort to actually examine internal facts that might be a cause of suicide bombings or terrorists acts in the country. Continue reading

Future generations have to be saved from Taliban

* PPP rally welcomes military operation in troubled areas of Swat

* Similar rallies staged in major cities of Punjab

Daily Times Staff Report

LAHORE: The Taliban are the enemy of Pakistan, and we have to save the coming generations from their clutches, said the participants of a rally arranged by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Friday.

The rally, organised to condemn the Taliban insurgency and express support for the army, started from Nasir Bagh and ended at Faisal Chowk in front of the Punjab Assembly building. Several PPP leaders, political workers, and the general public participated in the rally.   Continue reading

Dancing in Lahore

‘Lahore is a city that has to fight for its cultural survival. The growing influence of the Taliban, although hundreds of kilometres to the north-west, has been mirrored by a more insidious, creeping attack on culture throughout the country. On Jan 2, the bullet-ridden body of Shabana Gul, a dancing girl, was dumped in the centre of Mingora, the north-western district of Swat’s main town.But the growing cultural conservatism has had more subtle reverberations.In December, Lahore’s High Court barred the graceful and elaborate dancing girls, who first developed in the Moghal courts 400 years ago, from performing in public, on the grounds that they were too sexually explicit.

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Pakistan’s Media Crucial In Fight Against Extremists

By Madiha Sattar, HuffingtonPost Contributor

“So, it’s not okay for women to be touched by male doctors but male executioners can hold hands and slap bottoms in front of milling crowds?” asked a Lahore-based lawyer in an April 6 op-ed in Pakistan’s English-language daily The News.

“Apparently only girls must be punished for their libido. Boys, after all, become men when they can ‘tap that’.” Continue reading

Is Pakistan collapsing? A father and a citizen speaks

By Ali Dayan Hasan

At my daughter’s annual school parent’s day event in Lahore last month, the tension was palpable. Bewildered at the speed with which this innocuous annual event had transformed into a maximum security operation, anxious parents filed in their hundreds past security guards, metal detectors and bag searches into Theatre Number Two of the Alhamra Cultural Complex – a modernist structure that the citizens of Lahore would tell you proudly is amongst the largest public-funded exhibition and theatre complexes in Asia. They were there to see their children, none older than seven, perform the usual amalgam of tableaux on “Peoples and Festivals of the World”, a smattering of Kathak – a North Indian classical dance, a “Chinese dance” performance and, of course, my daughter’s favorite – a Disney-esque version of the Bangles hit – “Walk Like an Egyptian.” The event began, as always, with recitation from the Quran. Tense primary school teachers grappled with security issues and as I walked in; a very public stand-off between a security posse comprising teachers, local police and plain clothes personnel and a random man who was on the premises for “no known reason” was underway. The man was eventually deemed harmless and let go but there was no parent who entered that hall without making note of the exits. Two hours later, as we filed out, I and virtually every relieved parent thought and said the same thing: “One more year like the last one and next year there will be no Parents Day. Another month or two like the previous ones and there might be no school left open.”

Since December 27, 2007 – the dreadful winter’s day when streets across Pakistan fell silent in the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistanis have understood and expressed in varying degrees, or disagreed in desperate denial, that the Islamization project unleashed by the United States and implemented by the Pakistani military since 1979 had turned on its creators, snarling at the United States, devouring Pakistan and exposing its army for the megalomaniac but intensely incompetent institution that it is. And the narrative of impending disaster, brutal dispossession and disembodied lives in exile for stateless citizens harking back pathetically to a lost life, hitherto the preserve of Palestinians and Cubans, Afghans, Somalis and the ethnic mosaic of the Balkans, beckons to Pakistanis as well. One could argue that Pakistanis are scared of a future comprising daily doses of floggings, beheadings, daisy cutters and drones. They might be too. But no one has had time to think that far ahead. The truth is more prosaic: After all, if your children cannot go to school, the future has ceased to be. And when societies cannot have a future, they die. Continue reading

In City of Tolerance, Shadow of the Taliban

Published: November 2, 2008

LAHORE, Pakistan — This city has long been regarded as the cultural, intellectual and artistic heart of Pakistan, famous for its poets and writers, its gardens and historic sites left over from the Mughal Empire.

In Lahore, Pakistan, sellers of CDs and DVDs complained of slumping business after threats.

The New York Times

Panic over an insurgency has found its way to Lahore.

The turmoil sown by militancy may have reached into the capital, Islamabad, but it rarely seemed to intrude here among the leafy boulevards that are home to many of Pakistan’s secular-minded elite.

But in recent weeks, panic has found its way even here, with a series of small bombs and other threats that offer a measure of just how deeply the fear of militant groups like the Taliban has penetrated Pakistani society.

On Oct. 7, three small bombs exploded in juice shops in a sprawling, congested neighborhood called Garhi Shahu. The shops, which had gained a reputation as “dating points,” offering enclosed booths for young couples to cuddle, were gutted in the blasts. One person was killed, and several others were wounded.

An unknown group called Tehreek-ul Haya, or Movement for Decency, claimed responsibility and warned of more attacks against “centers of immorality” in the city. Continue reading