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Moral Crusaders.

In this holy month of blessings, brotherhood and charity, it is tragic that some warriors misunderstand the lessons of patience and empathy that Ramazan instils in us, and spend the month instead victimising minorities and non-fasters. The recent victim of the vigilante upholders of the Ehteram-i-Ramazan Ordinance is heatstroke centres.

According to a report by Dawn, armed men, likely activists of some radical religious group, on Thursday stormed a heatstroke centre in Sukkur and resorted to firing into the air in order to force the operators to disperse the centres. This act by the groups was not unplanned- the attack came about after several warnings by radical activists who objected the operation of heatstroke centres during fasting hours, believing them to provide food and water to non-fasters. After repeatedly issuing threats, infuriated by the operators' defiance, the armed radicals stormed the Ayub Goth centre and forced its operators to shut it down.

It must be remembered that these heat centres opened up in Sukkur are a response to the severe heatstroke crisis that occurs in Sindh in summers. This year, Sindh has already become victim to a heat wave this month, with the Pakistan Meteorological Department issuing a heat-wave alert in Karachi in the early days of May, and an emergency being declared in all hospitals in the city. This heat wave affects upper areas of Sindh more severely due to the inadequate health care facilities, with maximum temperatures ranging between 40 and 47 degrees Celsius. This particular heatstroke centre, which offended the radical activists so much, is one of the many centres set up by the Sukkur Municipal Corporation (SMC) to provide immediate relief to victims of heatstroke.

2018's heat wave killed sixty-five people from heatstroke in Karachi, and the deadly 2015 heat wave caused the death of nearly 2000 people from dehydration and heat stroke in Sindh. Yet these tragic statistics were not enough to melt the hearts of our moral crusaders, who refused to accept that a fast can be disrupted, even if one is nearing the deathbed.

Even if these attacks on the heat centres were not from organised religious groups, and were the actions of some vigilante activists, it requires serious reflection on how the Ehteram-i-Ramazan Ordinance, a law meant to promote tolerance and empathy, is being misused to foster radicalisation and extremism. The legal wrath should come upon these moral crusaders who are twisting the beautiful messages of the Holy month.

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Publication:The Nation (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:May 12, 2019
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