Shadows of Sectarian Violence during Muharram
Although terror-related sectarian incidents have continued in various regions of Pakistan in the past few years, yet as soon as the month of Muharram approaches, the shadows of fear and uncertainty cover the country. Similarly, these events occur throughout the year, claiming human lives, but during this month, the incidents of religious extremism increase manifolds becoming a source of shame for Muslims and Islam i.e. religion of peace.
In the last week of Muharram, in Novemeber 2012, several people had been killed and injured in suicide attacks and bomb blasts. Despite the tight security measures, a bomb attack on a procession killed five mourners in Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on November 25, as Shias marked their holiest day Ashura. On day ago, a remote-controlled bomb killed eight people near a Shia procession in the same city. Earlier, 22 people were killed and several injured in Rawalpindi on November 21 when a suicide bomber targeted a Muharram gathering near Imambargah. This terror-event came hours after two bomb blasts occurred in Karachi near Imambargah, which killed three people.
Besides some sectarian events and assaults like targeting killings which took place during the month of Muharram, on November 15, 2013, sectarian violence between Shia mourners and Sunnis in Rawalpindi left 10 dead. Angry protesters targeted the mosque and the seminary, torching its building. Very soon, the incident enveloped other cities of the country where violent demonstrations and bloody clashes between the two religious sects took place, which also caused some deaths. Curfew was imposed and Army was called to restore peace not only in Rawalpindi, but also in other affected-cities.
In this regard, several Ulema (Religious scholars) and politicians belonging to Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, Sunni Ittehad Council, The Sunni Tehreek Ulema Board, The Melli Yakjaheti Council, Tanzeem-i-Nefazi Fiqa Jafria, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F and Muttahida Quami Movement said, “Conspiracies were being hatched to destroy peace in the country through sectarian divide…the enemies had once again succeeded in igniting sectarian strife.” They also urged the masses to be patient to foil the international conspiracy and asked the government to unmask the culprits including some hidden forces behind the Pindi sectarian incident.
It is mentionable that sporadic sectarian violence against the Muslims cannot be seen in isolation as, it includes multiple anti-Pakistan designs. Notably, secret agencies like American CIA, Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW are behind sectarian unrest in Pakistan.
In fact, the US had planned to spark a civil war between the Sunnis and Shias in wake of global war on terror. So, we cannot blame these secret agencies without solid evidence.
For the purpose, a study of the Rand Corporation, titled ‘US Strategy in the Muslim World After 9/11’ was conducted on behalf of the then US Deputy Chief of Staff for Air Force. The report of the Rand Corporation-a leading think tank, released on December 27, 2004 advocated that Sunni-Shia sectarian division should be exploited to promote the US objectives in the Muslim World.
The report of the Rand Corporation was first implemented in Iraq. In this context, CIA also got the services of Mossad and RAW to fuel sectarian violence in Iraq. In 2004, major terror-attacks were carried out against the Shias in Karbala and Baghdad. Afterwards, a chain of Shia-Sunni clashes started between Iraqi Shias and Sunnis, targeting each other’s mosques, religious leaders through bomb blasts, suicide attacks etc.
After Iraq’s experiment, more deadly pattern of sectarian strife and clashes have been conducted in Pakistan, which still continues in one or the other way.
As a matter of fact, some banned religious outfits like Lashkar-i-Janghvi and the Sunni militant groups, Jundollah (God’s soldiers) which have claimed responsibility for a number of terror assaults on Shias in Balochistan get arms and ammunition from RAW and CIA. These foreign-backed militants groups which have close connections with each other and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan are behind target-killing of many Sunni and Shia leaders, political figures of these sects, bomb blasts, suicide attacks, assaults on the religious processions, mosques, Imambargahs etc., carried out in various regions of Pakistan to achieve the covert aims of the US, India and Israel.
Now, these foreign-backed entities have made Pakistan to wage proxy war of Saudi Arabia and Iran, while these hostile elements are also manipulating sectarian differences between Riyadh and Tehran—also noted in Syria and Yemen which have been destabilized due to civil wars.
In this context, while hinting towards US, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had rightly disclosed, “The bloody actions being committed in Iraq, Pakistan and Iran are aimed at creating a division between the Shias and Sunnis—those who carry out these terrorist actions are directly or indirectly foreign agents.”
However, various measures should be taken in countering the sectarian violence in Pakistan, especially in the month of Muharram. In this connection, the right hour has come that religious clerics, political and religious parties including media persons and the intellectuals must play an effective role in creating religious tolerance and enlightenment amongst all religious factions, particularly those of Sunnis and Shias, convincing them to live in harmony and peace. They must point out that violent attacks on places of worship and clashes against each other’s sect, and damaging the property is against the teachings of Islam.
In order to tackle the sectarian divide, forbearance, self control and tolerance must be preached by all segments of society, and especially media must educate the people to adopt the principle of mutual co-existence, while religious clerics must come forward to impress upon the audience to remain cool and promote cohesion and brotherhood among different religious groups.
At the same time, sectarianism should be taken as a serious threat and dealt with strictly. Sectarian vulnerability should not be allowed to create ferocity, unrest and disorder in the country. This entails application of stringent measures and harsh control over sectarian groups to avoid conflicts and spread of religious hatred.
It is of particular attention that Islam stresses upon forgiveness, kindness and safety of everyone. It is not possible that we who believe in One Allah and Prophet (PBUH) cannot live together with harmony and peace. Both Shia and Sunnis must unite to shun sectarianism and extremism in the country. Muslims must know about the conspiracies being hatched by their enemy to divide Muslims into sects and they have to remain vigilant to foil these nefarious designs.
Again, the month of Muharram is equally respectable for Sunnis, Shias and all other sects of Islam. Media’s role for bringing harmony and unity among different sects can not be over emphasized. Religious scholars should act as a binding force of the nation and they must play active role in discouraging sectarian issues. Islam and all other recognized religions always denounce reckless killing and acts of violence in the name of religion; therefore, we must refrain from speaking against religious personalities who are respected by people of different sects. No gathering or activity should be held without the permission of local administration. Muslims should also respect people, belonging to other religious groups and their places of worship. The government must take strict security measures for Muharram Majalises (Religious ceremonial sittings) and processions and organizers of such events must cooperate with the administration.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations