KARACHI Ask the religious scholars to learn from we Lyariites what the religion and the harmony actually does mean. Lyari was the citadel of inter-faith harmony, says Akram Baloch as he hears news about the arrest of a suspected militant on allegation of planning to carry out terrorist plot during the Ashura in Karachi. The sacred month of Muharram-ul-Haram was not only sacred to Shias, but the whole 30 days of mourning were observed by every Lyariite. Be they the Sunnis, Hindus or Christians. By God, this place is witness, he points towards the roundabout called Aath Chowk. Akram Baloch, who belongs to Sunni sect, sits at a small cabin hotel, as he recalls the days when people from different faiths used to attend religious gatherings irrespective of their own sect or religion.He says it was just a decade ago when religion was not as important as harmony was. People have dwelling here from the pre-partition days together they were not only from the Sunni and Shia sects of Muslims but even the non-Muslims. The locals say that Lyari might be the only place in the country where the Muharram didnt mean only for the Shias and Holi didnt mean only for the Hindus. People from all faiths and all sects used to mourn with mourners and celebrated the festivities of each other above any discrimination of cast, creed or race. Pakistan witnessed growing trend of religious and sectarian violence in past one decade, particularly following the reign of power by Taliban in the Afghanistan after defeat of the Soviet Union. To defeat the Russia in neighbouring Muslim brethren country, General Zia promoted Jihad culture in the country with opening hundreds of thousands of religious seminaries. This not only ended up with the defeat of the Russia in Afghanistan, but it actually laid foundation of religious extremism and sectarianism in his own beloved homeland. Resultantly, today there is a panic across the country on the occasion of the sacred Ashura. Similar is the situation in Lyari where Shia Baloch community is also under fear. Akram Baloch argues that this is because of cultural split of the Shia and Sunni Baloch community. Few days ago things were quite different. The Sunni Baloch community used to bring Ashura procession as a symbol of harmony with the Shias. With the passage of it became an integral part of the local culture. Akram was one of those Sunni Balochs, who brought out this procession. Today, he only remembers those days. Till twelve years ago, the Lyariites used to bring out the procession of Ashura to pay homage to the martyrs of Ashura. It it used to start from Lyari Aath Chowk and later joined by other from the Baghadai Mosssa Lane and then culminated upon reaching the Kharadar. He regrets that this culture of harmony has died and accuses the religious scholars for committing the murder of this 'rich culture. There was not only inter-sect harmony but inter-religion. A large number of Hindu community live near Lyari slaughter house area, where during the holy all residents including Muslims and Christians celebrate it. Akram says they also used to celebrate the Holi, an annual religious festivity of Hindus. The houses of Hindu community people used to remain open during the days of Holi and visited by a large numbers of Muslims and Christians, who used to join Hindus to lit the traditional mud candles. And during the Muharramul Harram, the Gujrati and Kathia Wari communities used to observe the month of mourning differently like the Shias do. A guy, who used to dress particular Arabic costume, was made fake Yazzed. And many of patricians of procession posed like flogging him during the occasion, he recounts from his memories and adds besides, a particular tune was played at Shehnai and made replicas of Mausoleums Hazrat Imam Hussain and his other followers. Later these mausoleums would be sunk into the river. Talking to The Nation, another resident said Lyari is very old area where the Hindus, Christians, Muslims irrespective of their different sects and ethnic background lived peacefully. with exemplary inter-religious harmony. But after the Zia-ul Haq regime and especially the formation of Taliban Government, state-funded religious seminaries were established to win the war against the Russia in Afghanistan. He opines that after the fall of Soviet Russia and formation of Afghanistan regime, these seminaries started to spread hatred literature, which destroyed the all religious harmony in their own homeland. Many of the Lyaiites still want to get back to those days when a human was not harmful to others but they seem disappointed and said the chances were very bleak. Unfortunately, the countrys cultural has changed and if we want to boos the rich values that a civilized society must have, we would have to counter all religious bigotries and spread the word of inter-religious harmony for the betterment of the society, was the opinion of majority of the interviewees.