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Anti – Militancy Long March that changed Punjab

Sunni Ittehad Council is an alliance of traditional Barelvi religious / political parties, which is moderate in its essence and is popular with traditional and folk Muslims in Pakistani villages of Sindh and Punjab.

The Council started a long march from Islamabad to protest against what they claimed to be the government’s inability to arrest terrorists involved in the attack on Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh’s shrine in Lahore in July.


Unlike Lawyers’ long march which ended before entering GT Road, this long march was very successful. Politicians like Fazl-Karim used it to their advantage. One could see SIC long march posters and banners on buses, Rikshaw, Pan Shops. It also enjoyed significant support from trade unions and trading community of Punjab especially of Lahore, Gujrawala, Jehlum, Faislabad and Rawalpindi and also other small towns like Gojar Khan, Sheikhupra and others. Sunni Itehad council Facebook fan page attracted thousand of members in very short time. However with the passage of time council ulema’s stance on suicide bombing and Talibanization started taking the shape of personal enmity and rivalry with Deobandi Ulema, fading their principle stance against extremism.

They started regular Mahfil Naat function on every possible Sufi shrine on their way to Data Sahib from Islamabad. When Aasia Bibi case came in spotlight it gave SIC long march a new energy and soon it became pro-blasphemy campaign from what it once was i.e. anti-militancy long march.

Council’s members utilized the territories of same shrines of Punjab to spread their intolerant message of justifying killing in the name of love for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which once were the welcome-places for Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.

Shortly after emergence of Aasia Bibi case, Sunni Ittehad Council announced All Parties Conference to discuss blasphemy law, this APC actually never took place since Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman announced a parallel APC on blasphemy after he left the ruling coalition. Fazal-ur-Rehman APC had all the heavy weights like Sajjad Mir, Sajjad Naqvi, Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Ludhianvi, Munawar Hassan, Ejaz –ul-Haq and Ch Shujat. SIC APC lost its presence in front of powerhouse APC of Fazal-ur-Rehman and later SIC had to join the other coalition against the abolishment of Blasphemy Laws. In recent months SIC has been seen protesting along with Mulana Ludhivani whom they nominated as planner of Data Darbar attack and also the reason for doing anti-militancy march .

After the vicious attacks on Shrines and Imambargahs accompanied by the efforts of the security establishment and its proxies, religious parties that once were moderate have been compelled to take radicalized shape. The SIC, a party that represented the Brehlvi Sunnis was the most moderate muslim entity of Pakistan and generally supported democratic dispensations. None of the various Jihadi-sectarian militias in Pakistan belong to either the Brehlvis or Shias.

However, after a concerted effort by the security establishment to derail the PPP elected government, a radicalized Brelvi fanatic killed Taseer while other guards stood on the sidelines. The Shia Islamist organizations, like TJP and ISO, who never really possessed the broad-based support like SIC, were always more aligned to ISI and IRI than to the interests of Pakistan’s diverse Shia communities. After repeated massacres of Shias in Pakistan, these groups burned US and Israeli flags and did their best to divert attention away from the Taliban and their local affiliates. These groups like TTP, SSP, LeJ, LeT, JM, HuM have support by the State for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan and India.

Today, both religious groups are back in the clerical alliance that was built under Musharaf in 2002 and known as the MMA. The rebirth of the MMA by the security agencies derailed the initiatives of PPP and ANP legislators to make changes in the Blasphemy Law in 2009; a development that Pakistan’s “civil society” activists never talk about. For them, it is more convenient to lash out at the every elected PPP government whose leaders are being gunned down by the Taliban instead of talking about the actual reasons for the growth and unification of extremist forces in Pakistan. In their intellectual dishonesty and greed for funds for their NGOs’, this Fake Civil Society is no different from ISO, TJP and SIC!

Salmaan Taseer was the first one to visit Raqhib Naeemi to condemn his fathers’ assassination in a suicide attack. Unfortunately, he was the one to issue fatwa against Taseer !

With the emergence of Raymond Davis case, Sunni Ittehad Council brought anti American hysteria to shrines of Sufi. And shrines became center stage of hate speech. Many political observer in Punjab believe the crowd Sunni Ittehad Council attracted during their anti-American protest outnumbered many anti-american protest of Jamat Islami .

Recently Sindh assembly has recommends Shahbaz Bhatti for Nobel Prize with a unanimous resolution. I hope the intolerable message of fake lovers of sufi never reach the courts of sufis of sindh !

kise ne panjan panian vichch dittii zahar ralaa
te unhaan paniiaan dharat nuun dittaa paanii laa

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Humza Ikram

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