Zile Huma Usman, A Pakistani Tragedy

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It was her wedding anniversary. She was the mother of two. She was elected to office in 2002. In April 2005, she was helped organize an all-woman mini-marathon in Gujranwala. The women were attacked by MMA with batons and petrol bombs. She received death threats as a result of her involvement in the event. She became a provincial minister on December 1, 2006.

On Feb 20th, she arrived at the Muslim League House to hold an open session with her constituents. Around a hundred men and women were waiting for her. There had been an electricity shutdown, so she proposed that the gathering be moved to the lawns outside the building and started leading everyone outside.

As she was walking, some women started showering her with rose-petals.

A man walking next to her, Ghulam Sarwar, put a 30 bore revolver next to her temple and pulled the trigger. She was rushed to the Divisional HeadQuarters and later to General Hospital, Lahore but she did not survive the trauma to her brain.

Translated from Daily Jang:

Gujranwala (Jang News) Hafiz Ghulam Muhammad Sarwar, the criminal apprehended in the murder of the Minister of Punjab for Social Welfare Zil-e Huma Usman, is from Gujranwala. State news agency APP reported that in his testimony to the police, he stated his belief that a woman ruler or minister is against Allah’s command. In 2002-03, the criminal killed four women in Gujranwalla and Lahore but all the cases were dismissed due to technicalities and he was released from the courts. According to his testimony, he heard that Zil-e Huma was holding an open public session and he planned his murderous attack. In their report on Criminal Sarwar, GeoTV said that he has been connected to various other killings of women but has been released for lack of evidence. The criminal told the police that he does these killings to gain God’s approval and his intention is not to kill these women but merely to disable them but those whose time is due, expire. He expressed no remorse over any of his actions.

From Daily Times editorial, Demise of Gujranwala:

Let us take a look at this Maulvi Sarwar. The man had earlier murdered seven women described in the press as ‘call girls’ in Gujranwala and Lahore. He was arrested once and confessed to killing the ‘sinful women’; he was let off after one year because of lack of evidence but, more accurately, because of religious support. His patrons, according to the police, had “paid off” the relatives of the killed and been reprieved under ‘Islamic’ laws. There is nothing new in this. Anybody who knows the decade of religious mayhem in Karachi knows how criminals are protected from punishment by powerful patrons.

If our universities had not already been ‘conquered’ by the religious parties they could have done a sociological profile of Gujranwala as a city without a soul and a dangerous tendency towards punishing all kinds of ‘entertainers’, often with death. No one could imagine a decade ago that Gujranwala would become so violently Islamist in the future. No doubt it was becoming a wayside city that was growing by accretion without an intellectual mooring, more or less like Faisalabad that began well under the British but declined spiritually afterwards.

After General Zia ul Haq’s Islamisation, Gujranwala began to produce jihadis and turned inward, scrutinising its citizens for moral backslidings. It first turned on the minorities and produced the famous Salamat Masih Case, accusing an under-age Christian child of insulting the Holy Prophet (PBUH). A religious party attacked him and his co-accused in Lahore when they were coming to attend the High Court, killing one. Salamat Masih had to be sent out of Pakistan to save his life.

From Nawa-i Waqt editorial, The Murder of a Provisional Minister:

Religious freedom is the constitutional right of every citizen. But, this freedom does not give anyone the right to promote their point of view through violence or terrorism. The religion of Islam teaches patience, tolerance and compassion not extremism or oppression. If a member of this society feels that something is against the laws of Islams that it does not mean that he take law in his hand, become a terrorist and do his will without any retraint.

In this matter, it is essential for those associated with the government, state machinery, law-enforcing agencies and the judicial system; as well as religious scholars of every school of thought, to work for the creation of a tolerant and compassionate society and make certain that those who pose such dangers for our society are not allowed such freedoms. Because, when mistakes in the law allow crazed individuals like Ghulam Sarwar to escape, the task of keeping balance in society gets harder and this society will transform into the laws of Jungle where no ones life, property or repute is safe. Just as the atheistic open-mindedness, being promoted at the behest of the West, is a poison for our Islamic Republic, this extremism can also destroy the balance of our society.

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