Pirabad SHO Sharafat Khan, who took charge on April 1, was attacked by a group of men after she and her team stopped them from entering a mosque in Frontier Colony before Friday prayers.
In a video, that went viral on social media, the injured SHO Sharafat Khan is seen outside the mosque, warning men that they are violating the government’s order to suspend mass prayers amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“I didn’t lock the mosque but I will do so now,” the officer is heard saying in the video before she left the area in her vehicle.
A lockdown has been imposed in Pakistan to contain the spread of coronavirus. Many provinces have banned people from Friday congregational prayers in mosques. On April 10, however, many people still went, ignoring the government’s orders.
SHO Khan reached the site and told the men to follow the law. They attacked her and broke her glasses. After the prayers were over, Khan’s team made a video of all the men leaving the mosque.
Pirabad is one of the areas in Karachi where the Pakistani Taliban had hideouts in the past. Haqqani mosque is located in an informal settlement in Frontier Colony. A policeman told SAMAA Digital that the SHO and her team had gone to the area to ask the administration to suspend the prayers but the locals didn’t listen to her and manhandled the police team.
People were still out on streets when SAMAA Digital reached the spot. The mob had dispersed but the people in area were still angry. Some of them even threw stones at TV vehicles, not allowing the reporters to work.
“The police came here to stop namaz,” a teenage boy said. “How could a Muslim stop namaz?” Other men asked reporters to leave the area because they didn’t want to be filmed.
Outside Pirabad police station, more than dozen reserve police arrived with shields and batons. “Don’t go to the area alone,” a policeman said when he was asked about what happened earlier. “The people are angry and they are throwing stones at the police.”
Inside the police station, SHO Sharafat Khan was talking to her force. Her nose was bandaged from the cut when her glasses were broken. “The people of the area are very peaceful but there were some miscreants in the area who attacked us,” Khan told SAMAA Digital before leaving for SSP West’s office.
Judicial Magistrate Asif Ali Abbasi took notice of the incident and asked the West SSP and DIG to submit a report. He said that strict action will be taken against all those who don’t follow the law.
Tahir Ashrafi, a cleric, called the incident condemnable, adding that the men involved not only violated the law but also attacked a woman.
“People have to follow the decisions made by the government,” he said. “Many people would want to say their prayers by standing behind a moulvi, but they wouldn’t listen to the moulvi”.
The police are currently looking for the suspects. They have lodged an FIR against 20 people, including the members of the mosque’s committee under the anti-terrorism act.
The virus has killed 20 people in Karachi and the total number of known active cases in the area has reached 584, according to the Sindh Health Department.
The area’s profile
Pirabad and other areas near it, including Frontier Colony, Mominabad, Manghopir and Ittehad Town, used to be headache for the city’s police before an operation was launched in the city in 2013. Law-enforcement agencies had managed to dismantle the militant network in the city.
Mominabad police station in the area was bombed at least thrice before the operation. A number of policemen, including the traffic cops, were killed.
“Most of the mosques in katchi abadis are open for prayers,” a journalist, who lives in the area, told SAMAA Digital. “There were Taliban in the area years ago but the situation has improved in the recent years,” he added. “There are good and bad people in every area and the people who manhandled the police team were the bad ones.”
Last Friday fight
On April 3, a large number of people attacked the police in Liaquatabad when the policemen reached Ghousia Mosque to stop a prayer leader from leading Jummah prayers.
Two policemen were injured after men attacked them with sticks and stones, Liaquat Hayat, the SHO, had told SAMAA Digital. Seven men, including the prayer leader, were arrested.
Talking to SAMAA Digital, the ANP’s information secretary in Sindh said that they condemned the Pirabad incident. “If the government and ulema of the country have taken a decision then it should be followed. Look at what has happened in the country because of the coronavirus…look at what is happening around the world. It is not good.”
Whoever is responsible for the incident should know that they did not do the right thing, he said. An inquiry should be held to look into what happened and those responsible should be punished, he urged.
With additional reporting by Tooba Masood.