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Candlelit vigil for Taseer

LAHORE: After police’s refusal on Tuesday to let them hold a candlelight vigil on the sixth anniversary of slain former governor Salman Taseer at the customary Liberty Chowk, civil society workers held the event at Lalak Chowk in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) on Wednesday.

A group of civil society activists led by Syeda Diep of the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies, which had arranged the vigil, gathered at Lalak Chowk holding candles and placards – condemning terrorism and religious intolerance.

The activists were largely outnumbered by the police, which had forced them to shift the vigil venue to a secure location of the DHA and had initially cordoned off the area, where the workers gathered. However, the activists, later broke through the police circle to protest along the road and in the main square.

The police was forced to shift the venue when some of the religious parties also announced holding a rally at the Liberty Chowk and at the same time, overlapping with the civil society vigil. Fearing a clash, police approached civil society members with a request to change the location and the latter obliged. “We observe the day to reaffirm our commitment to religious tolerance, democracy and openness in society and we would continue doing so come what may,” said Farooq Tariq of the Awami (people’s) Worker Party, that had brought most of the participants in the vigil.

“We also condemn the undue fuss that the religious parties created on the roads. It was totally unnecessary because the civil society had been holding peaceful vigil for the slain governor for the last six years. We are peaceful and only wanted to reiterate our commitment to tolerance and peace in society,” he said.

Many civil society workers stayed away from the vigil because of high threat perception, under which the vigil was held.

Two factors instilled fear, says one of the activist who chose to stay away on Wednesday.

“Firstly, the religious parties’ workers were on the roads as well – raising the threat level. Secondly, the imposing police arrangements – blocking roads with containers and creating traffic mess – only added to general atmosphere of threat in the city. Had these factors not been there, the crowd at the vigil could have been substantial,” he said.

courtesy : dawn news

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