The Sindh Home Department has notified a list of over 200 scholars and leaders, belonging to different sects, to restrict their movement and to prevent them from delivering speeches anywhere in the province during the next 60 days.
The order has been issued to maintain peace and harmony during Muharram days and afterwards, stated a press release issued. According to the notification, the scholars include Allama Jaffar Hussain Jatoi, Zakir Mazhar Hussain Balti, Molvi Muzaffar Hussain, Professor Shafquat Abbas, Allama Aurangzaib Farooqi, Molvi Muhammad Idrees Dahiri, Molvi Manzoor Hussain Solangi, Hafiz Nawaz Solangi, Movi Abdul Jabbar Hyderi, Nasir Mahmood Soomro and others.
The notification states that there are reasons to believe that the 205 listed persons will make inflammatory and provocative speeches or indulge in activities prejudicial to public safety and maintenance of public order, especially during Muharram and Chehlum.
It adds that their speeches or other such activities may promote feelings of hatred and ill-will among different sects and professing different schools of thought and thus posing problems of maintenance of law and order.
Code of conduct
Meanwhile, the audio speaker systems to be used for congregations and processions during Muharram will not be installed at a height, while the volume of speakers placed on the ground will be adjusted in a manner that their sound cannot be heard beyond the participants of the gathering.
These are a few of the many binding clauses of the code of conduct issued recently by Sindh Home Department meant to maintain law and order, ensure inter-sectarian harmony, avoid sectarian clash or violence and to regulate the holding of congregations and processions in the province during Muharram.
The code of conduct contains several binding clauses for all the concerned stakeholders and has been divided into two parts – one related to administration and the other to the maintenance of law and order.
The administrative section makes it mandatory that space to be reserved for vehicle parking should be at a distance from the designated venues of Majalis and route of Muharram processions.
It is also binding on the deputy commissioners posted in each district to ensure the proper functioning of street lights, repair and maintenance of roads, drainage of sewage water and other sanitation measures to be adopted in the areas around mosques, Imambargahs, designated venues and routes of the procession and congregations.
As per the home department, the government will take steps to ensure uninterrupted power supply to all such areas in the province, while steps will also be taken to prevent poisoning of water, by any means, to be used for Sabeel during the Muharram days. Moreover, all public sector district hospitals will remain on high-alert, while cinema houses will remain closed from 8th to 10th Muharram province-wide.
The security section of the code of conduct makes it binding that no cleric or speaker could say a word that is considered contemptuous or blasphemous against all sacred and noble personalities in Islam.
The deputy commissioners and SSPs have been tasked to make sure that religious leaders in their respective localities do not deliver provocative speeches. Due action would be taken against violators of this order.
Before the start of Muharram, all commissioners, deputy commissioners, deputy inspectors general of police and senior superintendents of police will hold meetings with leaders of all religious schools of thought, including Sunni and Shia sects, and steps would be initiated to resolve their issues.
The offices of IGP, commissioners, DIG, deputy commissioners, and SSPs posted in different districts will establish their own control rooms and they will remain connected with the control room of the Sindh Home Department to monitor law and order situation during Muharram.
An inter-provincial and inter-district ban on the movement of speakers who could deliver speeches that could spread hatred or unrest in the society has been imposed and this order should be strictly observed, the home department has instructed.
People involved in the distribution and sale of printed, audio and visual material containing provocative content will be taken to task, the code of conduct states, adding that audio and video recordings of the speeches of clerics, whose entry has banned in the province, will not be used by anyone.
Moreover, operators of cable TV service will not be allowed to air recordings of provocative or objectionable content during the Muharram days. The SSPs in each district will record speeches made by important clerics during Muharram.
The hoisting of flags and displaying of banners of political and sectarian nature will not be allowed on public places, highways, government buildings, and sensitive installations.
The leaders of both Sunni and Shia sects could avail the services of private security agencies and scouts’ associations for securing Imambargahs, mosques, places of Majalis and routes of the Muharram processions.
As per the code of conduct, the bomb disposal squads deputed in various districts will be mobilised to thoroughly check venues and routes of Majalis and processions to avoid any untoward incident.
The district police will use closed circuit television cameras for doing surveillance of sensitive areas and to take swift action against miscreants. Moreover, motor vehicles mounted with the CCTV cameras will also be used for electronic monitoring of the Muharram processions.
There will be a complete ban on display and carrying of weapons during Muharram and anyone who will violate this order will be dealt with strictly.
Law-enforcement agencies will keep a strict check on the movement of all the persons whose names have been included in the list maintained under Schedule four of Anti-Terrorism Act-1997.
No one or no sect will be allowed to take out a procession on the first day of Muharram.
A system of strict effective monitoring will be evolved for ensuring due observation of this code of conduct while the administration will take action against violators of this code.
The commissioners and deputy commissioners will establish divisional and district peace committees comprising elders and prominent persons of Shia and Sunni sects.
The committees will do work to ensure these aspects: There should be no occurrence of any blasphemous act and those committing such an act will be immediately handed over to the law-enforcement agencies. No one will be allowed to use provocative slogans or the slogans spreading hatred and violators of this order will be apprehended. Commissioners, deputy commissioners, DIGs, and SSPs of police will take immediate action to remove wall graffiti containing objectionable content and to prevent future such occurrences.
The timing and venues of the Muharram Majalis and processions will be strictly observed and no one will be allowed to change the timings, venues and routes. The organizers of such occasions will be required to give a formal undertaking to this effect. There will be a complete ban on unsanctioned Muharram Majalis and processions for which there is no prior permission or NoC.