The walls of Karachi Press Club — which had recently been painted with colourful murals of several progressive civil society activists and journalists — were vandalised last night allegedly by members of politico-religious parties.
The messages left by the vandals were spray-painted over the portraits of nearly all women activists featured on the wall.
Though the vandals remain individually unidentified, the walls have the initials of politico-religious parties Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST) and Tehreek-i-Labbaik (TLY) sprayed on them.
A call for executing Asia Bibi, currently on death row as a blasphemy accused, was written in large black letters next to the portrait of Yasmeen Lari, a prominent architect, historian and humanitarian aid worker.
Lari’s portrait had been defaced with crude marks spray-painted on her face. A line in Urdu below the painting read:”Immediately arrest and hang Shaan Taseer or you’ll be responsible for the consequences.”
Shaan Taseer is the son of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was gunned down by his guard for speaking against Pakistan’s blasphemy law and in favour of minorities’ rights. Shaan recently repeated his father’s stance on the blasphemy law, and has been criticised heavily by the religious right for his views.
The portrait of Zubeida Mustafa, a renowned journalist and the first woman in Pakistani mainstream media, had been defaced with the words “Curse on the Jewish media” sprayed across her face. Her quote: “Women’s lack of empowerment condemns us to social problems,” had been defaced with a profanity.
PST’s initials could be seen spray-painted on a mural honouring Perveen Rehman, who was killed in 2013 allegedly for standing up to Karachi’s powerful land mafia. She had been working on documenting land-use around Karachi, and this may have upset entrenched criminal elements in the city.
Her quote: “Development should mean human development,” has been sprayed over with a religious slogan.
The mural dedicated to Fatima Surraiya Bajiya, a playwright and social worker, had likewise been defaced with profanities directed at the Taseer family and demands to release Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who was among more than 150 individuals arrested by authorities in Lahore yesterday for trying to gather for a pro-blasphemy law rally on the day of Salman Taseer’s death.