ISLAMABAD: While PTI workers were battling the police in Rawalpindi on Friday, people were taken aback to see Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a proscribed group, holding a rally in the heart of Islamabad.
Despite the imposition of Section 144, which had been used by the government to stop a convention of the PTI workers on Thursday evening, ASWJ comfortably held its annual conference on Friday, provoking many to accuse the government of double standards.
“This programme is a traditional conference similar to the traditional gatherings and processions related to Muharram. Therefore, the restriction of Section 144 does not apply to us,” said Hafiz Uneeb Farooqui, a spokesman for the ASWJ Islamabad chapter.
He said the ASWJ held its annual event to honour the fallen party leaders and workers, and the stability of the country.
Leader of proscribed group criticises Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid for creating ‘disturbances’ in twin cities
Meanwhile, an officer of the capital administration told Dawn that the party was asked to revalidate its permission issued by the deputy commissioner office on Thursday night and eventually the NOC was granted.
“Usually, there is no trouble with traditional events but the administration has certain SOPs and we ask the organisers to ensure that their event would not add fuel to the fire or that they would not use the platform against the government,” the officer said.
As hinted by the government officer, the speech made by ASWJ leader Ahmed Ludhianvi reflected the pro-government stance as he criticised both Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed for creating disturbances in the twin cities.
However, leaders of the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) did not participate in the gathering.
“We did not want to complicate political issues or create chances of any negative impression about the event. So it was decided that the leaders of the parties in the DPC, led by Maulana Samiul Haq, may not attend the event this year,” Mr Ludhianvi told the gathering held at the Hockey Ground, Aabpara.
He said though a large number of party comrades had fallen to bullets and bomb attacks, the ASWJ never took to the streets.
“I say to you both Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid, you are members of parliament which is the highest forum in the country but still you take your case to the streets,” Mr Ludhianvi added.
However, he said he wanted to see an end to corruption in the country and was in favour of accountability of all corrupt elements.
Giving his own example, the ASWJ leader claimed that the elections he had contested in 2013 were rigged and he had been able to get relief from the Supreme Court which declared the results of PP-78 Jhang null and void.
“The elections on the seat are scheduled to be held on December 1 and I have filed my documents and would win,” he announced.
Meanwhile, there were rumours that Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) leader Hafiz Saeed would be attending the ASWJ gathering. But a senior party office-bearer told Dawn that it had been decided that JuD would be represented in the gathering.
“Even if the situat ion had remained normal in the twin cities, Hafiz sahib was not scheduled to attend the gathering due to its pro-sectarian nature,” the office-bearer said. “We have stressed this point in the DPC and other forums too that sectarianism needed to be curbed.”
Published in Dawn October 29th, 2016