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October 18, 2020

Centre to set up interfaith harmony council, says Tahir Ashrafi

Karachi

October 18, 2020

Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, special adviser to the prime minister (SAPM) on religious harmony, said on Saturday that the federal government plans to establish an interfaith harmony council in the country and include the subject of religious tolerance in the educational curricula.

SAPM Ashrafi held a press talk at the Karachi Press Club and later visited Jamia Binoria Al-Alamia to offer his condolences on the passing away of Mufti Muhammad Naeem, the seminary’s principal.

Ashrafi, who also heads the Pakistan Ulema Council, said that the interfaith harmony council will include representatives of all faiths, each sect of Islam and every denomination of other religions to promote intra-faith dialogue and to curb sectarianism.

He said that such an initiative is necessary to fight conspiracies, provocations and terrorism by anti-state elements and terrorists. He also said that the government is mobilising religious scholars and representatives of various faiths, and streamlining the efforts to establish the interfaith harmony council and make it operational successfully.

The special adviser said that the assassination of Jamia Farooqia principal Maulana Adil Khan is a great tragedy and poses a serious challenge to the government and the law enforcement agencies to arrest the killers.

He also expressed concerns over the withdrawal of security to religious scholars and leaders, saying that the Sindh government already knows that religious scholars are on the hit lists of terrorists. “If the Sindh government can’t provide security, the federal government can be approached for it.”

Ashrafi said that some forces have become been trying to destabilise the country politically and economically through their negative propaganda and by creating hurdles in the smooth functioning of the government, which is committed to strengthening the economy.

He expressed regret that these anti-state elements do not even spare the armed forces of the country from their criticism and engage in maligning them for their personal gains. “They have been trying to create a rift between the government and the armed forces to weaken the country.”

Later, speaking to Sheikh Noman Naeem, Jamia Binoria Al-Alamia’s new principal, the SAPM expressed sorrow over Mufti Naeem’s death, terming his passing away an irreparable loss for Pakistan.

He said that the late Mufti Naeem had played a key role in convincing the Centre to hand over the responsibility of dealing with the affairs of madrasas to the education ministry.

Unsolved crimes

In Karachi, which is considered the hub of Pakistan’s largest madrasas, over a dozen top scholars, including Muhammad Yousuf Ludhianvi and Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, have been murdered in the past two decades.

Maulana Adil Khan was the third top Sunni religious leader to have been attacked in the metropolitan city within a span of roughly six years.

On March 22, 2019, Jamia Darul Uloom Karachi’s Mufti Taqi Usmani was on his way to deliver the Friday sermon at Jamia Masjid Baitul Mukarram on University Road when two motorbike pillion riders fired at his car on the ramp of the Nipa flyover.

Mufti Usmani and his family, all of whom were in the back seat, survived the attack, but their police guard Muhammad Farooq and driver Habib were killed. The investigators detained several suspects, but failed to trace the actual perpetrators.

On February 15, 2015, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat chief Maulana Aurangzaib Farooqi came under a terrorist attack in the city’s District Korangi during the wee hours and survived the attempt on his life.

Investigations were launched into the attack on Mufti Usmani, who is also a former judge, the attack on Maulana Farooqi and the recent assassination of Maulana Adil, but none of them seemed to have made much progress.

Keeping the similarities in view, the investigators are also trying to ascertain if there are any possible links between the attacks on the Sunni religious leaders.

“Belonging to the same sect, both [Mufti Usmani and Maulana Adil] head/headed the two top madrasas of Pakistan: Darul Uloom and Jamia Binoria,” said a senior officer. “In fact, the assailants targeted both scholars minutes after they had left Darul Uloom.”

The forensic science laboratory’s reports in both the high-profile attacks state that the weapons used in the attacks do not match those used in any previous crime.

Young assailants on motorbikes were behind both the attacks. They had been following them from Darul Uloom, when the religious scholars were travelling as part of their routine.

“Both the attacks were carried out in the East Zone police jurisdiction,” said the officer. The investigators suspect that the same group might be behind both the attacks. They are also reviewing the CCTV camera footage of both the incidents.

“The attackers of both men may or may not have been the same,” said the officer. “But nothing can be said for sure until the investigations are completed.”

Despite Mufti Usmani and Maulana Adil being among the top religious scholars, they were attacked as if they were soft targets, and the motive behind the attacks on them was to apparently create chaos in the city, or maybe in the entire country.

Though militant organisations have recently been found to be active in the country once again, it has been learnt that these attacks are apparently sponsored by foreign elements and are aimed at ruining the relatively peaceful atmosphere in Karachi with a larger conspiracy to trigger chaos in Pakistan.

“It might be said that a sleeper cell has been operating in the city from years ago,” senior counterterrorism officer Raja Umar Khattab told The News.

“This was the third major attack of this nature in Karachi. In the previous two attacks, the assailants failed to murder the religious leaders [Maulana Farooqi and Mufti Usmani], but this time they succeeded.”

Khattab said there was no major reaction to the failed attempts, but there might be a backlash this time. “Undoubtedly, the attackers are foreign-funded, and most probably, this sleeper cell is located in Korangi, where they return to their normal lives after targeting high-profile personalities.”

He said that as long as they remain untraced or unidentified, they will stay in the city or at least in the country, but they will escape abroad once they are exposed.

Son of religious scholar Maulana Saleemullah Khan, 60-year-old Dr Adil Khan became Jamia Farooqia’s administrator after his father’s death. Maulana Adil had stopped in Shah Faisal Colony to do some shopping. He was in his vehicle with his driver when motorbike pillion riders fired shots at both of them.