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September 26, 2017

Idara-e-Amn-o-Insaf never recovered from the attack that left seven staffers dead


September 26, 2017

Seven workers of the Idara-e-Amn-o-Insaf were murdered at the charity’s office on September 25, 2002. Critically injured in the terrorist attack, Robin Sharif survived the gruesome ordeal but still remembers that horrific morning.

“It was a normal day, like any other, until a group of men entered the office and held us hostage at gunpoint,” recalls Sharif. “They shot everyone once in the head at point-blank range, but I was lucky enough to survive.”

The seven staff members who were slain at the office situated at Rimpa Plaza were identified as Aslam Martin, Mushtaq Roshan, John Maneses, Kamran Anjum, Iqbal Allah Rakha, Benjamin Talib and Edwin Foster.

Four months prior to the deadly attack, on May 22, the charity’s chairman, Edwin Noon, was found dead at his office near the Tibet Centre. Police found his body trussed up and his mouth sealed shut with adhesive tape. The victim was also injected with a poisonous substance.

The Idara-e-Amn-o-Insaf was set up in 1974 as a joint initiative by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi and the Church of Pakistan. It was a vibrant civil society organisation working for labour rights, social awareness and the rights of non-Muslim communities. For social activists, the organisation was important for various reasons.

Karachi-based rights activist Zahid Farooq said the charity was working to resolve issues of various communities, Muslim and non-Muslim. Their monthly magazine ‘Jafakash’ focused mainly on issues relating to labourers, human rights and underprivileged communities, he added.

Farooq said ‘Jafakash’ was one of the few publications extensively covering trade unions and labour issues across the country. “It was the Idara-e-Amn-o-Insaf that made efforts to include a box for religion in the national identity cards, and that campaigned for a joint electorate system.”

After the 2002 attack, however, the charity could not recover, depriving the citizens of Karachi of an important source of support. The organisation’s establishment was inspired by the liberation theology, a movement that grew out of South America as a response to poverty and the ill-treatment meted out to ordinary people.

William Sadiq, a human rights activist who was associated with the Idara-e-Amn-o-Insaf, said the charity was formed with financial assistance of the World Council of Churches, a worldwide inter-church organisation founded to bring together Catholics and Protestants.

“The main objective of setting up the organisation was to lower the burden of the churches to help the Christians migrating from Punjab in the 1970s, and to organise them at their workplace.” Over the years, the 2002 attack has been treated as a result of infighting among the local Christian community over getting possession of real estate.

A section of the community, though, believes that the organisation’s concerns over Pakistan's blasphemy laws and its efforts for amendments were the main reasons for the horrendous attack.

Police had arrested three militants in February 2008, claiming that they were involved in both the Rimpa Plaza and the Tibet Centre incidents. Last March, the police also claimed to have killed two al Qaeda militants for their involvement in the Rimpa Plaza attack.

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