Religious leaders, especially the khateeb of Shahi Masjid Chitral, Maulana Khaliquz Zaman, and the law enforcement agencies led by Col Nizamuddin Shah of Chitral Scouts on Friday played a positive and timely role in controlling a mob that wanted to burn alive a mentally disturbed man for allegedly making blasphemous remarks.
As the news of the incident spread like a jungle fire, panic gripped the whole valley of Chitral. Though religious leaders and Ulema played a very constructed role, there were some elements who tried to ignite sectarian tension in Chitral as the alleged blasphemer claimed that he belonged to the Ismaili community. A press release sent to ChitralToday by the elders of the Ismaili community in lower Chitral said the alleged blasphemer should be tried in accordance with the law and the exemplary peace of Chitral should not be derailed for the crime of an insane person.
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Eyewitnesses said Rashiduddin, the alleged blasphemer, earlier worked in Qatar from where he was sent home by his friends after he developed some mental health issues. On Friday, he was in the Chitral town on way to Peshawar accompanied by his brother for the treatment of his mental illness when he went to the mosque and uttered the blasphemous remarks.
A shopkeeper in Chitral town bazaar said while going to the mosque for Friday prayers Rashid stopped by his shop. He was wearing suit and asked the shopkeeper to give him ten rupees loan. When the shopkeeper looked at his dress surprisingly, Rashid told him not to be worried as he was the newly-elected president of Iraq and would return the money very soon.
Inside the mosque, he started a speech and criticized the Ismaili community. He claimed that he belonged to the Ismaili community but had left it and decided to join the Sunni school of thought. He then wanted to make a speech and claimed to be the descendant of the holy Prophet Muhammad and the 50th Imam of the Ismailis. Then he said he had received divine revelation and was a prophet too. When some people charged towards him to beat him up, the khateeb of the mosque, Maulana Khaliquz Zaman, stopped them saying he was mentally disturbed.
The man was then handed over to the police. Eyewitnesses said after the police took him inside the police station located near the mosque, angry people, including seminary students, started arriving outside.
They asked the police to hand over the alleged blasphemer to them but the police refused. When the mob tried to enter the police lines the police baton charged them and also used tear gas shells pushing them to the parade ground. The angry mob also set ablaze a car belonging to the Shahi Masjid khateeb outside the mosque.
As the crowd started swelling, the local administration called the Chitral Scouts and the army to maintain order as a majority of police personnel from the Chitral town had been sent to Qaqlasht for security duty of the annual festival underway there.
Chitral Scouts Commandant Col Nizamuddin Shah, Deputy Commissioner Shahab Hamid Yousafzai and other authorities reached the spot. The Chitral Scouts commandant pleaded to the people to disperse saying the alleged blasphemer would not be handed over to the crowd and would be tried under the blasphemy law. The crowds continued trying to enter the police lines and going back to the parade ground till in the night. During the period they twice attacked the police station and slightly damaged the premises.
When contacted, DC Yousafzai told ChitralToday on Friday night that after successful negotiations Ulema had persuaded the the crowd to disperse but some people in groups were still present in different pockets in the area who would also go away soon.
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The DC said an FIR had been registered against the alleged blasphemer and a copy of the FIR provided to the Ulema. He said the alleged blasphemer would be proceeded against under the law of the land.
Meanwhile, some people coming from Qaqlasht in upper Chitral were stopped by the police when they reached Koghuzi. They were coming to Chitral after the four-day annual festival was cancelled on the second day of the event to avoid any untoward incident. Published in ChitralToday on April 22, 2017. (Zar Alam Khan)