Sunni groups clash over Clifton route

Staff Report

KARACHI: Despite tight security in the city on 12th Rabiul Awwal, reports of a clash between two religious groups (Deobandi and Barelvi) were received from Clifton.

An Eid Milad-un-Nabi procession of the Barelvi group emerged around 3:00 p.m. from Madrassa Dar-ul-Uloom, Nooria, Rizvia Trust, Kehkashan in Clifton block 5. When the procession reached the Boat Basin roundabout, the police, without giving a reason, reportedly changed its route. Along this new route fell Deobandi madrassa Jamia Islamia (located near Mottas supermarket and the DVD shops).

Upon receiving this news, hundreds of members of the madrassa emerged armed with sticks. As the two groups came face to face, they threw stones at each other. The police took control of the situation and separated them and no injuries were reported from either side.

TPO Saddar Town Tahir Naved, who has additional charge of Clifton, said that the route was modified because of some reasons, which he did not want to disclose over the phone. "Please meet me at my office where I will share all the details," he said. "The matter has been resolved and there is no need to highlight it further."

The Barelvi procession was organised by the patron chief of the Madaris-e-Qadriya Munir Barkaati. According to a spokesman of Madaris-e-Qadriya, this procession had been organised for the past three years with permission from the city's administration. "As usual, the procession emerged this year as well but the police did not allow the procession to go to Schon Circle Chowrangi from Boat Basin, and directed it towards the streets leading to Khayaban-e-Roomi," he told Daily Times. The spokesman added that people from the Jamia Islamia of the Deobandi group came out and tried to harass them and they retaliated. "The police then directed us towards the Teen Talwar Chowrangi from where we continued to Nishtar Park," said the spokesman. He refuted reports that the procession participants misbehaved.

Nazim of the Jamia Islamia (Deobandi) Mufti Abu Bakr Mohiuddin said that two years ago, a similar incident had occurred when the procession changed its route so that it could pass by the Jamia and chant slogans against them. "When the procession passed by Masjid Farooq-e-Azam (Deobandi) in Boat Basin, they chanted slogans in front of the mosque and we were reported the incident," he said. They informed '15' and the city administration that the procession must not pass the Jamia. "The administration did not take action in time, therefore we had to take the matter in our own hands," he said. Mufti Abu Bakr said that they did not want to fight with the Barelvi group but if anyone challenged them, they would not tolerate it. "I regret this clash but the administration should plan routes in which these two groups do not have to cross each other's ways," he said.

Vice principal of the Jamia Islamia Mufti Abu Hurraira said that their madrassa and its students never took to the streets since its inception in 1970, even when former prime minister Benazir Bhutto sealed their madrassas in 1993. "We have five branches countrywide. Among our students, 850 are boarding students, while 200 are local. However, no foreign student is enrolled in our madrassa but about six years back, students from Malaysia, England and Fiji Islands were part of our madrassa," he said. After 9/11, he said, American and European ambassadors had visited the madrassa.

Sub-inspector of the Boat Basin Police Station Zulfikar said that the state had filed an FIR no 126/2007 against more than 50 unidentified people. When asked about what route the procession was following, he expressed no knowledge.

Shopkeepers in the area said that when the stick-wielding madrassa students emerged in droves, they immediately pulled their shutters down. This was the first time they had seen something like this take place in Clifton. "The stuff we saw happening in Islamabad appears to be taking place here," a paan wallah said. "A maulvion ka fauj on the roads appeared out of nowhere. We had no idea that madrassa had so many students." According to witness accounts, men with guns turned up on the roofs of buildings nearby, including the minaret of the mosque.