Monday, May 12, 2008

Relatives of May 12 victims blame MQM for violence

By Bhagwandas

KARACHI, May 9: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was behind the May 12, 2007 violence in the city, says a report quoting the family members of the victims.

The report, titled “May 12, 2007 – Black Day of Karachi” and prepared by the Women’s Action Forum (WAF), a non-governmental organisation, was launched at the Karachi Press Club on Friday.

It contains interviews of the family members of those killed in the violence that day.

On May 12, 2007, the deposed chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, was scheduled to visit the city and take part in a function of the Sindh High Court Bar Association. Members of civil society, including lawyers, were not allowed to reach the airport to welcome the chief justice. Nearly 50 people lost their lives and hundreds others were wounded.

The MQM held a rally on M.A. Jinnah Road the same day.

In the interviews, conducted by WAF’s teams, a number of families blamed the MQM and President Pervez Musharraf for the May 12 massacre.

The report quotes Rahmat Khan, father of Muntazir Khan, who was killed, as saying that all this was done by the government and the Muttahida, and now they should talk to “our elders” so that peace in the city could be restored.

Gul Rehman, younger brother of Fazal-ul-Rehman, another victim, says: “We think that the government and the MQM had got it executed, and now we will abide by our party’s decision.”

The widow of another May 12 victim Umer Sidique has been quoted as saying that she was informed by her husband’s colleague, Iqbal Hussain, that they were told by activists to get out of their vehicle on Sharea Faisal as they wanted to conduct a body search and as they came out of the vehicle they were shot dead.

Umer Sidique’s younger brother says: “This was done by the MQM on the directives of Musharraf.”

Speakers at the launch ceremony called for setting up of a commission comprising non-PCO judges to probe the May 12 mayhem so as to initiate action against all those found involved in the violence.

The WAF chief, Anis Haroon, said that nobody, not even the government, had the right to say “forgive and forget”. She urged the relevant authorities to arrest the culprits who, according to her, should be made to confess to having committed the crime before the victims’ families and to ask for their forgiveness. “If the families do not forgive the culprits, they should be tried in a court of law,” she said.

Ms Haroon argued that national reconciliation was necessary to bring about peace and tranquillity in the country, but it should be based on justice.

Referring to the emotionally-charged speeches made by the family members of the May 12 victims and other speakers, Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri said that it was up to the people to decide what exactly they wanted.

“Do they want revenge and more blood on the roads or do they want a peaceful city where their children can grow and live without any fear?” she wondered.

Citing the example of the slain chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Ms Marri said Ms Bhutto had lost her father and two brothers, but she chose to move on and interacted even with those involved in the murders as she believed in forgiving.

“By doing so, Ms Bhutto did not mean to forget her dear ones. What she tried to teach the people was that they should direct their emotions towards bringing about peace so that everyone in the city, the province and in the entire country could live in peace and free from all sorts of fears,” she explained.

The president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association, Rasheed A. Razvi, demanded a probe into the May 12 carnage to be conducted by non-PCO judges. He urged the relevant authorities to expose and punish the culprits. Mr Razvi deplored that those elements who were being accused of inflicting the massacre on the city had been made part of the ruling coalition.

He also criticised the government’s attitude towards the handling of the judges’ issue. He said that people at the helm of affairs seemed to be more concerned about the protection of the judges who had taken the oath under the Provisional Constitution Order.

Describing the MQM’s attitude towards the PPP’s first government in the late 80s as ‘betrayal’, Iqbal Haider of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan predicted that the present coalition would meet the similar fate. He demanded that terrorists be banned from taking part in elections otherwise they would continue to blackmail political parties to remain in power.

Khursheed Tanvir of the Karachi Union of Journalists said that WAF had taken a bold step by publishing a report of this nature. He said that journalists were exposed to a lot of pressure from religious, ethnic, sectarian and political groups and they were performing their duties in a hostile and utterly intolerant environment.

Mr Tanvir urged the government to ensure an environment enabling the journalists to perform their duties without any fear or pressure. Tasneem Siddiqui said that the city had been a victim of state-sponsored violence for the past 20 to 25 years. It all started when General Zia created groups in urban Sindh mainly to divide the PPP’s vote bank, he said, adding that various other sectarian, religious, and ethnic groups were also created to divide the strength of popular political parties. He said that civil society and concerned citizens had to wage a long struggle to bring about a lasting peace in the city, the province and the country.

Linking justice to a lasting peace in the city, Barrister Qazi Faez Isa said that if justice was not done such incidents would continue to recur.

Shazia Batool of the Awami National Party, Ali Rehman, and Mir Akmal, father and brother of those killed on May 12, said that they were not seeking revenge. They said that they just wanted the government to take legal action against all those involved in the May 12 mayhem. Amar Sindhu, Abrar Kazi, Afia Zia and others also spoke. Zakia Sarwar presented her poetry.

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