On June 17th, 2014 a tragedy unfolded at Minhaj-ul-Qura’n International which remains the most heinous crime in the Pakistani history of state terrorism. This atrocity was carried out by Punjab police, which acted at behest of the government, against the innocent, unarmed and peaceful workers of Minhaj-ul-Qura’n. The final death toll of 14 citizens included 2 pregnant women, youth and elderly. Punjab police’s brutality injured over a hundred people and left most of them disabled for the rest of their lives. We commemorate this date, remembering the victims of that terrible event.
According to Minhaj-ul-Qura’n International’s website and the live stories shown by Pakistani media, it was around 1:30 p.m. on Monday night on June 16, 2014 when the hundreds of police officials laid a siege to the central secretariat of MQI and the residence of PAT chief Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. The police launched this operation without any prior warning presumably in the name of removing security barriers. They had heavy machinery at their disposal. Only basic security officials were deployed at the central secretariat and residence of the PAT leader at that time. The Police officers commanding the operation were shown the circular issued by the Model Town Police in which MQI administration had manifestly been asked to make security arrangements in line with the court’s orders in view of possibility of terrorist attack. They were further told that these security barriers were erected under the supervision of police officers of Model Town Police Station but they refused to accept the circular. The discussion about the issue was also held between central leaders and police officers but the police did not seem to relent. Rather, they became more aggressive as time went on and ordered baton-charging of the staff members living in the central secretariat and students of the Minhaj University. These unarmed people braved the police action throughout the night.
With the rising of the Sun of June 17, the news of state terrorism on the central secretariat of MQI spread like wild fire to every nook and corner of the country. Upon getting the word, the workers, members of civil society and the people at large started reaching the central secretariat. The police deployment also increased as things began to heat up and reinforcements came from all across the city of Lahore. Defending themselves against the brutal police action, the workers warded off the officers from removing security barriers for many hours and they suffered severe baton-charging and pelting of stones by the police in the process. At last, the police resorted to shelling of teargas, aerial firing and even started live firing at the protesters. People started to die. The bullet-riddled bodies could be seen lying on the roads. The people started shifting the injured people to the hospitals on their own. It was after 15 hours of continuous action that the police took control of MQI Secretariat.
After occupying the central secretariat, the police moved forward to the residence of PAT chief. They fired live bullets at whosoever came their way and removed the security barriers placed in front of Dr Qadri’s house. People started dying there as well. Police also made an attempt to gatecrash into residence of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri. The lady workers present there became shield before the police. Paying little heed to presence of women and showing little regard for the human lives, the Police opened fire at them. Two lady workers were killed on the spot while numerous others were injured. As a result of this Police attack and state terrorism, seven people including two women died on the spot where as7 more succumbed to their injuries later in hospitals. More than 90 people sustained serious injuries. The hundreds of workers were arrested, thrown into jails and shifted to undisclosed locations. (Source: minhaj.org )
But as the tragedy of model town ended, the mourning of a nation had only begun. News of the massacre soon spread. There wasn’t an eye devoid of tears. The gruesomeness of the massacre was beyond belief. It defied explanation. As children looked at their elders and asked for answers, their elders could only respond with misty eyes. They had no answers themselves, only questions regarding this uninstigated brutality.
I can never forget that day when at her mother, uncle and aunt’s graves, young Bisma cried until she had no more tears. She felt she had nothing more to live for. The pride of her life was gone. The mother she loved and the aunt she adored will never be around her to put a spark in her worried eyes. She can no longer hold her mother’s hands or ask for her advice. Ayesha (younger daughter of Tanzeela shaheed) cried uncontrollably as the body of her mother wrapped in MQI’s flag was lowered into the grave. She will never see her mother again. In the morning she had held her briefly and now, she wished to have held her back tightly and never let her go.
Today, three years after one of the bloodiest day in Pakistan’s history, there are more questions than answers. But, since then, though not like Model Town Massacre but there have been more killings. And the more killers escaped justice without a strong national reaction, the more emboldened it became. Injustice and lawlessness has now become a routine practice that the Sharifs exercise as a method of governance. The 14 victims of Model Town, the victims of Qasoor Rape scandal, the blind and handicapped protestors who were beaten to death, the nurses and young doctors on strike who were humiliated, tortured and even killed, Mashal Khan who was lynched by a mob of religious fanatics for alleged blasphemy, bloggers and social media activists who were illegally abducted, held against their will and tortured for holding pro-humanity views, Asia Bibi and my fellow countrymen who are still in jail for alleged blasphemy just because they are religious minorities, my Ahmadi brethren who are being persecuted for their faith, and I have lost the count of members of Shia community whose lives this regime has so cowardly snuffed out, will never be forgotten until justice for them is done. We will stand for nothing less than full justice for the dead and their families.
I cannot understand how a crime that took place in the view of cameras, where the whole world saw how the innocent civilian citizens were massacred mercilessly, can pass like this without any criminals held to account.
To date, nothing has been done to avenge any of these barbarous acts, especially the model town massacre. On this day of mourning, I call upon the people of Pakistan to remember the victims of Model Town Massacre. I also call for increased awareness of the ongoing suffering of Pakistani Shia community, and a renewed impetus towards finding a solution to this intractable problem, according to the tenets of international law.