April 10th, 2021 

By Hamid Riaz & Hassan Raza 


LAHORE 

A group of renowned Sindhi writers addressed a press conference yesterday on April 9 in Hyderabad to demand the immediate arrest of the cleric Pir Sarhindi, who had publicly announced placing a bounty on Sindhi writer Amar Jalil’s head.

The entire controversy started last month when a three-year-old video of Amar, reading out an excerpt from one of his Sindhi short stories at the Sindh Literature Festival mysteriously began making the rounds on social media. Hardliners flooded twitter, with demands to arrest the writer and book him under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.The incident is being regarded as a continuation of targeted campaigns against progressive and secular academics and intellectuals across the country.

Soon after Ayub Jan Sarhindi, a Barelvi extremist, who is popular in Sindh for his alleged role in forcibly converting minor Hindu girls started delivering sermons against Amar Jalil. A few days later, a junior member of Ayub Jan Sarhindi’s religious order publically announced a prize of fifty lakh rupees for Jalil’s slaughter.

A few days later, a counter trend by the country’s progressives and Sindhi intellectuals overtook twitter trends to express solidarity with Amar. A group of civil society activists met chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to demand protection for Jalil.
The Sindh High Court Bar Association also issued a press release demanding that the government step in and prevent extremists from harming the open culture of Sindh.

“Amar Jalil is the son of Sindh and he is a Sufi at heart. In my mind there was nothing controversial about the reading. Amar had simply used an old literary tradition to discuss his relationship with Allah. But such complexities are beyond the understanding of brainless clerics,” exclaimed Taj Joyo, a celebrated Sindhi writer, who is one of the writers leading the press conference in support of Amar.

Talking about the cleric Ayub Jan Sarhindi and his religious order, Joyo explains that “A member of this religious order wrote an extremely derogatory book against G. M. Sayed, the founder of Sindhi nationalism, and today his successors are attacking the few progressive intellectuals we have left.”

“Sindh has always been a land of tolerance and religious harmony. Different religions and sects have always loved together on this land but sadly there is an organized campaign to stifle this culture of harmony and replace it with Taliban-esque religious extremism. But I assure you, we Sindhis will never allow this to happen,” he declared.

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