Police 'Raid' On Ismaili Community Council's Office In Thatta Sparks Protests

Police vow probe against officers involved, departmental action if they are found involved in any extra-judicial actions

Police 'Raid' On Ismaili Community Council's Office In Thatta Sparks Protests

A police squad on Sunday evening barged into the office of the local Ismaili Council in the town of Var in Thatta District. The raid sparked a loud and heated protest from the local Ismaili community.

The matter was further complicated after senior police officers said they had no prior intimation for the raid, nor had they authorised it. However, they assured the community that a departmental probe against the police officials involved in the episode would be launched and those found responsible would face departmental action. 

Locals said that on Sunday evening, as many as three police vans pulled up to the Ismaili Council's office. The squad was led by Sujawal Police Station SHO Sajjad Jamal. 

A Ismaili Council staff member, who was at the office when the police raided it, said that police barged into the office by breaking open the main gate. He further claimed that the police officers smashed the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera system and windows besides pelting the building with stones. Such actions of the police spread fear and panic amongst the Ismaili community living near the office. 

Another witness, Adil Rahmani, said that Jati SHO Parhiyal Panhwer, Chuhar Jamali SHO Qurban Qambrani and DSP Safar Dawach, among others, were also part of the raiding party and had allegedly ransacked the CCTV systems and other materials, in the office. 

Matters took a turn when the police squad attempted to force their way into the local Ismaili community centre (jamaat khana). The staffer said that when the police squad saw a large number of residents come out of their homes and move towards the community centre, they backed off.

Locals said that when the police officers faced resistance from residents, SHO Jamal and two other police officials allegedly threatened the people with dire consequences if they were impeded in carrying out official work.

When locals asked them why they had raided the Ismaili Council's office, police allegedly told them that they had received information about a Gutka (chewing beetle nut) factory operating out of the premises and that they were taking legal action against the contraband manufacturing entity.

Seeing tempers rise among the local community, the police squad boarded their vans and left the scene.

Later, a large number of youth from the Ismaili community gathered outside the Sujawal police station and protested the raid. The protests blocked the road, suspending traffic on Var-Thatta road for around two hours. 

A protester, Shahriyar Hussain, said that the Ismaili community and its spiritual leaders have played a vital role in securing Independence and the progress of Pakistan, but it seems as if the police chiefs of both districts have not read their history. He further said that the community is spread over 40 countries, including the USA, Canada, and the UK, and that it is living peacefully. 

The protests dispersed after DSP Ghorabari Izhar Hussain assured them of justice. The police attempted to calm people down by claiming that the information they had received was wrong and that they were unaware of the reality of the office they were raiding. The officers added that they never intended to offend the Ismaili community. 

Thatta and Shahbunder Ismaili Council's President, Dr Nazir Jummani, said he had attempted to contact Thatta's SSP, Dr Imran Khan, but could not immediately reach him. However, he said SSP Dr Imran later sent a message to clarify that while he was on leave, he had not ordered any police action on the Ismaili Council office. 

Later, a community delegation led by Qaim Karwani met with Sujawal SSP Dr Khaliq Pirzada, under whose jurisdiction SHO Jamal operates. SSP Dr Pirzada assured the leaders of the Ismaili community that they would launch a departmental probe against the police officials involved in the episode. 

A delegation of the Ismailia National Council For Pakistan met with the Hyderabad DIG on Monday morning and urged him to take notice of the controversial raid. They urged the local community to remain peaceful and avoid confrontation. 

Meanwhile, DSP Ghorabari, who had reached the Ismaili Council's office to review the situation and addressed protesters, revealed that they were completely unaware of the raid led by SHO Jamal, adding that no prior information was given to them regarding any raid by the Thatta SSP either. 

Condemnation from civil society

ILF leaders Jamshed Ali Khawaja Advocate, Barrister Syed Jaffer Abbas Jafri, Taiseen Manzoor Advocate, Salman Farhad, Zeeshan Ali Khawaja Advocate, Umair Ali Khawaja, Farooq Hashwani, and others denounced the egregious police action and condemned the alleged intrusion into the Jamaat Khana, harassment of women, and the disrespectful act of entering a religious space with shoes on.

They claimed that Sindh IGP Ghulam Nabi Memon bears responsibility for the raid and demanded action against him. 

Additionally, the ILF called for the immediate arrest of police officials allegedly involved in the incident, including Thatta SP Dr Imran Khan, Sujawal SP Abdul Khaliq Pirzada, and DSP Zulfiqar Qaim Khani. 

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Syed Ayaz Ali Shah Shirazi lashed out at Sujawal SSP, warning him of strict action if the Sujawal police's extra-judicial moves are not curtailed.

He said that Ismaili communities have made significant contributions to the development of the country and hold the reputation of being peaceful. 

He deplored the illegal act of the Sujawal police against the community.

The author is a practicing lawyer and freelance journalist. His areas of interest are cultural diversity and socio-political issues of Sindh.