Pakistan: How to End Sectarian Violence

secterianismBy Zaheerul Hassan

12 died, 80 injured and millions of rupees damage caused to the properties of the people in the sectarian violence of 16 November in Rawalpindi. Authorities have imposed a curfew for two days in Rawalpindi after sectarian clashes erupted at a Muharram 10 procession near Fawara Chowk. Beyond any doubt, one can deduce that the sadism resulted due to the negligence of local administration and prejudice conduct of the religious leaders who just promote radicalism in their followers.

Sectarian division also exits in major countries of South Asia as well, but unfortunately it is only Pakistan where sectarian violence is extremely getting intense with its brutal face of aggression and conflicting antagonism. The growing trends of sectarian fighting in Pakistan indicate that sectarian violence as a menace is turning into a second most threatening monster after terrorism. In fact, Pakistani Muslims particularly Sunni continue to participate in and support the Ashura processions of Imam Hussain. Muharram used to be observed with unified harmony and reverence by all sects including Shiite and Sunni Muslims. While Shias moved in processions the Sunnis would line up managing SABEELS, paying respect to the Shia procession and providing protection.

 Last two decades witnessed a frightening upsurge in the Shia-sunni sectarian violence in Pakistan, both in term of scope and intensity. These clashes between the two sects left hundreds dead and thousands injured, including Iranian diplomats, senior state functionaries and important religious leaders on both sides. The ongoing sectarian strife has engulfed even those areas, which were previously unaffected, largely because of the interference of hostile agencies and emergence of organized terrorists group along sectarian lines. Besides target killing, these groups now hit even ordinary members of each other sects, whenever and wherever they find it operationally convenient. Pakistan is already going facing foreign sponsored terrorism, in Balochistan, FATA and Karachi.

It has become extraordinary challenges to security forces to fight against terrorism on internal and external front. The friendly Muslim countries are also involved in promoting and strengthening of sectarian organizations in the country in general. Iran is backing Shia organizations and Arab states are financing Sunni and Deobandi sectarian groups to further their own interests. The Western countries are also providing funds to moderate religious groups as part of their strategy to hit Islamic Ideology in Pakistan.  These foreign interventions are major agents of sectarianism in the country, which are eventually harming the cause of national integration.   Thus, there is a need to highlight the interference by foreign elements that are fueling sectarian strife in our country due to their own vested interest. Government should take steps to create unity and brotherhood amongst various sects, especially at this moment when Pakistan is facing multi dimensional external as well as internal threats.

Sectarian divide has become a susceptible vulnerability that is posing neurotic and precarious threat and making it difficult to maintain peace, mutual harmony and tranquil politico-social order. Routine gets disturbed and business stalled, impeding the economic activities in the country whereas the feelings and emotions are negatively charged. Hatred and vengeance spreads through social settings and blood-shed marks its signatures disturbing law and order situation in the country, to an irreversible degree. Under such circumstances anti Pakistan elements and rival out-groups (foreign agencies) leave no stone unturned to exploit the situation to accomplish their wicked designs. They use money, influence and other means to ignite sectarian emotions and hateful communications to keep the issue alive at community level contaminating the entire structure of civil society as people fight among each other without going into the details of the dispute and hollowness of their claims. The aim of foreign anti Pakistan elements focuses on destabilizing the state of Pakistan. The people of Pakistan must understand the wicked scheme of anti Pakistan elements desirous of creating permanent fissures among core sectarian groups to geographically divide the country into Shia – Sunni zones, thereby weakening Pakistan as a viable and effective state.

Though brutal acts of cold blooded target killings have been condemned by the entire nation, yet general public feels insecure with instant feelings of sinking into pit or suffering lapses of depression, as avenging reactions may lead to sectarian strife, thereby exploding the sectarian bomb with its negative psychological impact and devastating brunt on law and order situation, social order, political stability and economic growth. In short, religious leaders should deliberate make efforts to create harmony amongst in all sects. We must remember Muslim community though consist of various sects but believe in one God, one Prophet (PBUH) and one Holy Quran. Historically they have been living in harmony with each other. They should revive old traditions of mutual respect and reverence. Government should take steps to educate the people on tolerance as basic tenet of Islam and professes that extremism needs to be curbed for peaceful co-existence of different communities in the country.

 Pakistan is a progressive Islamic state and a responsible atomic power thus surge in extremism always be taken as serious threat to its ideology. But external powers infiltrate their agents in the extremists groups to work towards fulfillment of their nefarious designs. Therefore, as Pakistani, we must realize our responsibilities and indicate the moles present in our society .Every individual need to apprehend that outside powers are using Pakistan as a turf for fighting their ideological wars by promoting sectarian and extremist organizations and by providing them with funds and weapons to fight their proxy wars in Pakistan. Poverty, religious illiteracy, iron hands against terrorism, registration of madrassas and banning of all terrorism organizations are those steps which can help in eradication of sectarianism from Pakistan.

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