Thursday, July 05, 2007

FIX the Mullahs: Pakistanis Demand

Zahoor's Cartoon - DT - July 6, 2007

Once and for all: Fix the mullahs, demand area people
* Residents for terror case against ‘preacher of suicide bombing’
* Say food distribution during curfew relaxation mismanaged

By Irfan Ghauri and Sohail Chaudhry: Daily Times, July 6, 2007

ISLAMABAD: The residents of Sector G-6 on Thursday reacted positively to the operation against Lal Masjid mullahs though some were unhappy with the hardships of the curfew.

Daily Times interviewed people coming out of their houses during the curfew relaxation. Residents of Sector G-6/4 strongly supported the operation against the mullahs saying “it was for good reasons and for our safety.” They regarded the presence of militants in the area a constant threat. “We were threatened by the militants. We were even scared to leave our houses as the mullahs could have kidnapped us. My son was stopped many times by the baton- wielding students of Lal Masjid. We should all cooperate with the government in this targeted operation,” said a woman living at Hakeem Laqman Road. Mehmood Ali said the operation would make their lives safer. The attacks of mullahs at shops and houses had sent off a wave of panic in the area and no one was sure who their next target would be, he said.

Another woman said, “I think residents would have taken some step by themselves to get rid of the mullahs if the government had remained inactive.” She said the reports that mullahs and seminary girls who forced women to wear burqas had scared her family.

Resident Wasim said the mullahs had crossed the line and left the government with no option but to use force against them. He lambasted Abdul Aziz, the head mullah, for the bizarre manner he adopted to escape arrest and demanded that he be tried on terror charges in court. “The preacher of suicide bombing should not have worn a burqa to run away. It’s quite cowardly,” he said.

“We were expecting that the tension would prevail for six months. But the operation proved a success,” Abul Wajid of G-6/1 said, adding that people had suffered much from the curfew.

People criticised the government for the mismanaged provision of commodities during curfew relaxation. “The administration has set up only four mobile stores for two sub-sectors of G-6, which is insufficient,” said Ahtisham Khan. The mobile stores were at Saddar Roard and Hakeem Laqman Road but people were not informed of their location, he said.

“We are not only suffering from gas shelling but also from the foul odour that has pervaded area because the garbage has not been removed,” said Muhammad Junaid and called for the restoration of civic services in the area. “We will not return till the end of the operation,” said Fareed Khan. He also complained of gunfire that disrupted area residents’ sleep. M Shafique Abbasi, a union leader of Aabpara Market traders, said the government should speed up the operation as traders could not afford to keep their shops closed for long.

Reproductive Health Service Centre in charge Dr Rifat Shaheen said security forces had not allowed ambulances to move to the Federal Government Services Hospital (FGSH) in case of emergency. Shaheen said doctors’ movement was also restricted which could result in a loss of life. She said she had relieved 15 patients during the curfew relaxation.

Saadia Khalid adds: Prolonged curfew in Sector G-6 in the wake of a gun battle between the students of Lal Masjid and Jamia Faridia has played havoc with the lives of residents. Daily Times talked to a number of residents of the area and learn that there was hardly anybody who had not been affected by the curfew. Everybody had a different tale to tell.

On Wednesday, many people could not reach their homes and were left with no option but to sleep out in the open or to hire rooms in the area hotels. It was only after a two-hour relaxation of the curfew on Thursday that they managed to reach their homes. Kiran, a resident of Sector G-6/3, said she could not celebrate her Mayuan (the bride’s last few days before marriage) on July 4th and that her parents had postponed the function to another day hoping that the curfew would have been lifted by that time.

It is also reported that many of the people residing in sector G-6 have left their houses temporarily after the operation.

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