Sectarian violence in Pakistan

The implications of sectarian clashes are manifold, everlasting and irreversible. It has divided the whole country on sectarian basis along with already threatening provincial, ethnic, political and linguistic prejudices prevailing in the country.

Almighty God says in the Holy Quran; ‘And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah (the Holy Quran) and be not divided among yourself, and remember Allah’s favour on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that by His grace, you became brethren (brothers)’ (AL-Imran: 103)

Contrary to the above mentioned and other commandments of the Almighty God, sectarianism has reached at such an alarming stage in Pakistan that the massive use of violence against the opposite sect, appears to be the only choice for Shia and Sunnis outfits. These extremist groups, though not real representatives of their respective communities, have destroyed the very social fabric and have jeopardized the peace and security of the country through their terrorist and violent acts. Suicide attacks at mosques, shrines, religious gatherings and processions, target killings of each other’s religious leaders have become a common practice, which depict the worst picture of sectarianism in Pakistan.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Sipah-e -Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) now named Millat-e-Islam-Ye-Pakistan, Jundullah, etc., are the Sunni militant groups, while Sipah-e-Mohammadi, Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan now named as  Islami Tehrik-e-Pakistan (ITP), Imamia Student Federation, etc., are the radical  Shia groups. Most of these Sunni and Shia groups were banned by the Musharraf regime but all of them re-appeared with new names and still continuing their activities.

Besides having social, political and economic repercussions, these frequent incidents of violence have inflicted severe blow to the already damaged Pakistan’s reputation in the comity of nations.

The irony is that these inhuman acts of brutality are committed in the name of the great service of Islam, despite committing the severe transgression of Islamic values and teachings of love, tolerance, tranquility, harmony and peace.
The Holy Quran unveils the above mentioned cover of these extremists as; ‘And when it is said to them (hypocrites): ‘create not chaos (disorder) on the earth,’ they say: ‘we are only peacemakers.’ Verily, they are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.’ (Al-Baqara: 11, 12). So in the presence of such clear teachings of Islam one should not hesitate in saying that these extremist elements have brought bad name to Islam.

The implications of sectarian clashes are manifold, everlasting and irreversible. It has divided the whole country on sectarian basis along with already threatening provincial, ethnic, political and linguistic prejudices prevailing in the country. These divisions are so engraved in the society that they are now posing a serious challenge to Pakistan’s geographical and ideological boundaries. Pakistanis should not let the history repeated as we suffered a severe setback in the shape of fall of Dhaka (East Pakistan) in 1971. Wise nations always learn lessons from history as it is rightly said that those nations who forget their history and geography suffer at the end. The damage, inflicted by the acts of terrorism on the country, is immense and incalculable.

These ruthless and cold-blooded incidents have played havoc with the already weak economy of Pakistan. Withdrawal of foreign direct investment, due to social and political instability and uncertain security situation created by sectarian strife and unceasing terrorism, is really a great loss to the economy. In this era of regionalism and complex inter-dependence, this cancer of sectarian, terrorism and bigotry have also become main hindrance in the way of Pakistan to be warmly welcomed at regional and international level. For instance, in case of Pakistan’s bid to achieve a civil  nuclear deal with the US, similar to the one it signed with India in 2007, the so-called threat of falling of our nuclear assets into the hands of extremists, is the only ‘chip US has always been using to achieve its objective. One more example can be of Jundullah, an extremist sectarian group operating from Pakistan, has become a real irritant in Pak-Iran relations.

To eradicate or at least control the sectarian violence in Pakistan, bold steps are needed. Pakistan has to adopt a policy of pragmatic realism, if it really wants to maintain peaceful coexistence of different sects. Northern Ireland’s model of Conflict Management in sectarian conflict between Protestants and Catholics, through Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in 1998, can be helpful in Pakistan’s case. Political will and willingness of the rival parties are the prerequisite for the reconciliation and complete solution of any dispute. Media and civil society can play a vital role in this regard. Government should bring all madaris to the mainstream education system having reformed and uniform syllabi curriculum. Intelligence sharing and foolproof security measures through sophisticated apparatus and modern training’s could be helpful to preempt any terror threat. The involvement of ‘external factors’ in fanning sectarian conflicts in the country should be checked and foiled as early as possible.

The government machinery should remain neutral in dealing with sectarian conflicts. Personal liking or disliking of the government officials and political leadership should not have any role in handling sectarian matters. Banned sectarian organisations should not be allowed to re-appear under any new names. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies should stop the flow of small arms and ammunitions coming into the hands of sectarian groups. Religious scholars and ulema should strive hard to create harmony among different school of thoughts. Dialogue between rival sects should be arranged to find out ways and means for their peaceful co-existence. Result-oriented and workable policies and their forceful implementation should be government’s first priority. All Pakistanis should take it as their religious and national duty to mitigate sectarian differences to avoid any damage to the sovereignty and integrity of the country.

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