ISLAMABAD, April 30: In the suburbs of the capital, along the road to the airport, lies Ghori Town, a housing society near Khanna Bridge. This otherwise unassuming neighbourhood, however, has a curious claim to fame and an unexpected link with the man who was convicted of murdering former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and is currently awaiting confirmation of his death sentence in prison.
Taseer was shot and killed by Mumtaz Qadri, a member of his own security detail, at the Kohsar Market in Sector F-6 on January 4, 2011. The shooter Qadri has become a divisive figure in Pakistani society. He is hailed as a ‘hero’ by some and denounced as a cold blooded murderer by others. Clerics from the Barelvi school of thought are among those proclaiming Qadri’s ‘heroism’.
Perhaps this is why a mosque in the suburbs of the very city Taseer was killed in, has been named after Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. The mosque is constructed on a 10-marla plot of land, next to a girls’ seminary, the Jamia Rehmania Akbaria Ziaul Binaat. Even though the housing society is not fully developed and several houses in the neighbourhood are still under construction, there are already four mosques, catering to people from different schools of thought, in close proximity to each other.
The mosque’s prayer leader, Mohammad Ashfaq Sabri, told Dawn: “The mosque was built to pay tribute to the services of the man who taught a lesson to a blasphemer,” adding that the name was chosen in consultation with religious scholars and residents of the area.
Sabri said the main prayer hall was constructed by the housing society’s developers, but more storeys are expected to be added, which will be paid for by donations.
But those living in Ghori Town say no one asked them. In fact, several residents Dawn spoke to refused to be named for fear of reprisals.
“I know who Qadri is and what he did. I have a very different opinion of him, but I can’t speak out because I’m afraid something might happen to me or my family,” said one of the mosque’s neighbours.
Another Ghori Town-resident, Mohammad Tufail, said: “Have you ever heard of clerics consulting anyone in the neighbourhood before naming a mosque? But I figure, what’s in a name? We just go there, pray and come back. I don’t want to get involved in the politics of these Maulvis.”
“I cannot comment on whether this is right or wrong. I work to provide for my family and I don’t want religious fundos beating down my door because they don’t like something I said,” said Faisal Rasool, another resident of Ghori Town.Saleem Janjua, who also lives close to the Mumtaz Qadri mosque, offers his own interpretation of events.
“Some religious leaders or the owners of the housing society probably wanted cheap publicity. This will make the mosque popular and fund raising easier,” he told Dawn.
When word of the mosque’s controversial name got out, it triggered a major backlash on social networking sites. The late governor’s daughter Sheherbano Taseer, Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari and dozens of others condemned the decision to name the mosque after “a murderer”.
Civil society, politicians expressed concern
“It is clear that the fabric of our society has changed,” Ayesha Siddiqa, a security analyst who has also studied banned organisations, told Dawn.
“Extremism and violence terrify the common man and stop them from speaking out on such issues. There are people who would oppose such a move, but they have no voice,” she said.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar also expressed his shock.
“A mosque had been named after a self-confessed murderer. This will not promote peace and harmony in society, only deepen divisions”.