Solution of Sectarian Violence
While, the country by and large witness Ashura peacefully, but on November 15, this year, sectarian violence between Shia mourners and Sunnis in Rawalpindi has left 10 dead and more than 65 injured. Angry protesters targeted the mosque and the seminary, torching its building including an adjacent cloth market where incidents of looting and arson occurred. Very soon, the incident enveloped Multan, Chishtian, Bahawalnagar, Kohat and Hangu 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.
Although curfew has been lifted in Rawalpindi and the situation has started normalizing there and some other cities, yet outbreak of religious riots need special analysis because the leaders of the major political and especially religious parties including those of the Sunni and Shia sects have indicated the involvement of the foreign hands behind Rawalpindi tragedy.
In this regard, several Ulemas (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, Defence of Pakistan Council, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F and Muttahida Quami Movement said, “Conspiracies were being hatched to destroy peace in the country though 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.
However, in the past few years, Pakistan has been facing various kinds of subversive activities, but foreign hostile entities have also accelerated sectarian violence as part of their unfinished agenda to further weaken the country.
Undoubtedly, the sporadic sectarian violence against these Muslims has intensified, but, it 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 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.
These insurgent groups also kidnapped and killed many Iranian nationals in Pakistan including Iranian diplomats. Jundollah conducted many subversive acts in Pakistan’s Balochistan and Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan. In this regard, Tehran has directly accused CIA of funding these types of terror attacks.
It is mentionable that while hinting towards US, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei 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.”
Now, in the aftermath of the Rawalpindi-tragedy, the atmosphere presents an edgy picture, as tension brews among sects of different religious seminaries (Madrassas)—heads of some Madrassas and religious sects have also decided to conduct demonstrations and rallies in the coming days. So, public undertones filled with fear of avenging forays by Sunni (Whabbi) sect, not only in Rawalpindi, but also other parts of the country.
As part of solution, various measures should be taken in countering the sectarian violence in Pakistan. In this respect, 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 in democratic a state, peaceful protest is a right way, but violent attacks on places of worship and clashes against each other’s sect, and damaging the property is against the teachings of Islam. In this regard, peaceful long march of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri might be cited as example.
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.
Following the Rawalpindi episode, although the government has taken some steps like formation of Judicial Commission and removal of senior Police officers, yet it must draw a comprehensive strategy to eliminate the threat of sectarianism. In this context, the government will have to enforce law for all sectarian groups, making them observe control, calmness and enhanced sense of tolerance. Besides, our rulers must carry out reforms of Madrassas, and ensure that foreign aid to these religious institutions is provided only through the approval and consent of the government. This will automatically block the way of proxy wars fought by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran at Pakistani soil, using people of Pakistan just as the fodder of these wars. The government should also monitor the literature published by different sects and their affiliated religious institutions or Madrassas, and those found guilty of spreading hateful communication must be brought to books.
Nevertheless, there is a need to adopt multiple ways for the progress and prosperity of the country. In this respect, all the sectarian groups need to think that they are Pakistanis, not like a Sunni, Shia, Deobandi, Ahl-i-Hadith and so on. This message should be sent to all the seminaries, indicating the hostile designs of anti-Pakistan forces which are fully engaged in destabilizing Pakistan through sectarian unrest.
Adopting long and short term measures to address the issue of sectarianism, particularly, leading religious scholars must also ensure that extremism and sectarianism do not spoil internal peace, law and order in Pakistan.
People of Pakistan must be reminded by these internal entities, as to how Islamic countries were targeted by the imperialists to achieve their objectives and meet their interests. In the process, countries like Iraq have been completely destroyed. And Pakistan cannot afford to become the target of such internal violence initiated on the basis of sectarian divide. The people of Pakistan must be educated that their survival lies in their unity and inter-sect harmony.
Notably, Islam teaches us peace and tranquillity, while prohibiting fighting during holy months like Moharam and Ramzan. It is obligatory for all of us to observe the sanctity of holy months.
Again, demonstrating inter-sect harmony and mutual respect should become the hallmark of all Pakistani nationals.
Besides, solution of sectarian violence demands that all the segments of society must show selfless unity with the security forces and law-enforcing agencies in castigating the external conspiracy, aimed at ignite sectarian riots in Pakistan.
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