Mystery of missing clerics

Two Indian Muslim clerics belonging to the Sufi school had mysteriously disappeared from Pakistan. While Islamabad claimed it had no inkling on their whereabouts, the clerics’ hosts in Karachi, when contacted by Indian High Commission officials, made it plain that they were under severe pressure not to open their mouths. Syed Asif Ali Nizami, the octogenarian head priest of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah of Delhi and his nephew Nazim Nizami went to Pakistan to visit the Data Durbar and Pak Pattan shrines at Lahore with which the Delhi Dargah has a traditional link for centuries. According to the family of the clerics, while Asif was allowed to go to Karachi, Nazim was detained at the Lahore airport presumably because he had ‘incomplete’ travel papers. He became untraceable after that. Nizami apparently boarded a flight for Karachi but did not land at the Karachi airport. Apparently, he vanished in the mid-air!
The whole things smacks of a well-planned conspiracy hatched with official help. The suspicion is that the ISI had a role in the clerics’ disappearance though the motive is not clear. Pakistan’s hostility to Sufism is well known. Pakistan is also hostile to the Shias and do not recognize Ahmedias to be Muslims. Ahmedias in Pakistan are legally debarred from identifying themselves as Muslims. Pakistan Government’s claim that they are ‘proactively pursuing’ the matter will fool no one. Two men who were seen arriving at Lahore and one of them boarding a Karachi flight cannot vanish into thin air. Pakistan will have to answer for them.
After this incident, Indians intending to visit Pakistan will have to think seriously whether it will be safe for them. What adds piquancy to the situation is the motive behind the abduction of the clerics. Sufism is associated with love, compassion and piety. Sufi culture forms a bridge between Hindus and Muslims. Sufism was introduced in India by Moinuddin Chishti in the twelfth century. Since then Sufism has attracted many adherents. It is a powerful movement for amity and reconciliation. All these traits of Sufism may be galling to Pakistan but that does not explain the disappearance of the two Sufi clerics. The External Affairs Ministry should vigorously pursue this case and hold Pakistani authorities squarely responsible for the safety and security of the clerics. Pakistan must be made to account for their whereabouts.

Monday, 20 March, 2017