LAHORE  - Various religious parties took to the streets on Friday to condemn the Rawalpindi incident, terming it an attempt to ignite sectarian violence and dismantle the country’s social fabric.

In Lahore, different religious parties organised rallies which were participated by a large number of people from all walks of life. The participants demanded the government for immediate arrest of the culprits involved and award them exemplary punishment. They asked the government to unmask the real go-getters behind the tragedy, besides announcing compensation for the victim families and traders whose shops were burned to ashes. They said that the madrassa students who had gone missing on the day of incident should be recovered; otherwise, they would continue their protests.

A large number of protesters of different organisations including Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Samiul Haq, Jamiat Tulba-e-Islam and Muslim Student Organisation gathered outside the Lahore Press Club and were holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans condemning the incident. They also shouted slogans against the government for not maintaining law and order on the occasion of Ashura.  While leading the protesters, ASWJ leader Maulana Shamur Rehman Muawiya said there might be some hidden hands behind the Rawalpindi incident that had claimed lives of nine people and injured 50 others, besides number of shops was burnt to ashes. He said the students of different seminaries went missing on the same day whose whereabouts are still unknown.  Maulana Hafiz Hussain, Maulana Usman Qasmi, Peer Saifulallah Khaliq, Maulana Asadullah also addressed the participants. They alleged that some police officers are involved in the incident owing to which the situation turned from bad to worse and caused huge loss of lives and business. They said the mourning processions should not be held in streets and bazaars rather should be held under specific boundaries.

The speakers demanded the government to set up special courts to punish the culprits. They said that terrorism in the name of religion and attacks on Madaris was a matter of grave concern for the rulers. They said, “We admit that foreign hands were involved in fanning sectarianism in the country but it is responsibility of the government to expose such elements.”

They urged the masses to remain calm and reject terrorism by showing peace. They also demanded the government to implement Section 295 C against the accused for attacking the mosque. They also demanded to restrict all religious processions to worship places so that the security could be maintained.

On the other hand, Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen also arranged a demonstration at Bhatti Chowk where its provincial secretary general Allama Abdul Khaliq Asadi addressed the participants. He said that the participants of Eid Miladun Nabi (BPUP) or Muharram processions never did terrorism rather they were attacked by terrorists many times.

Terming the Rawalpindi incident as a conspiracy, he urged the government to unveil the culprits. He demanded an impartial investigation into the incident and death penalty for the elements involved.

However, Sunni organisations including Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat Mahaz, Sunni Ittehad Council Pakistan, Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, Idara Sirat-e-Mustaqeem, National Mashaikh Council Pakistan and Jamia Naeemia observed Friday as harmony and unity day.

In order to maintain peace, the city police had taken tight security arrangements and huge contingent of police remained present at The Mall from Masjid-e-Shuhda to Faisal Chowk in front of the Punjab Assembly to avoid any untoward incident.  Similar security arrangements were made at Lahore Press Club where the police blocked all the roads leading to Shimla Hill, and only participants of the demonstrations were allowed to reach the place. Members of different religious parties continued checking all the demonstrators before joining the gathering.

The Punjab government had deployed around 10,000 police personnel in order to combat with any violent situation specially surroundings of protests. Heavy contingents of police were also deployed at various mosques, Imambargahs and shrines to confront any untoward situation.