Sectarian violence continues in Pakistan in one form or the other. In this regard, Punjab President of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), Maulana Shamsur Rehman Muaviya was shot dead by the two unidentified gunmen in Lahore on December 6, this year. A large number of workers of ASWJ staged sit-in protest and demonstrations across the country against his targeted killing. Particularly, in Lahore, shops and roads were closed and traffic jams were witnessed due to protest. Besides, on December 3, a senior leader of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) was assassinated by two armed men on the University Road in Karachi. Following the incident, MA Jinnah Road was blocked and protesters pelted passing vehicles with stones, which also resulted in traffic jams in many parts of the city. Petrol pumps and CNG filling stations were also closed.
New wave of sectarian violence started in the aftermath of Rawalpindi tragedy which witnessed bloodshed between Shia mourners and Sunnis, leaving 10 dead and several injured in the city on November 15. Angry protesters targeted the mosque and the seminary, torching its building including an adjacent cloth market where events of looting and arson occurred. The incident was followed by violent demonstrations and bloody clashes between the two religious sects, which also took place in Multan, Chishtian, Bahawalnagar, Kohat and Hangu. 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 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, the Rawalpindi tragedy carried the swelling prospects of spreading sectarian unrest in the country—there is a need to defuse the tense situation by undertaking various measures to resolve the sectarian crisis.
In this context, peace call of the Defa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) to avert sectarian violence is of special consideration, as it is a step in right direction. Notably, in the recent past, DPC held a meeting under the Chairmanship of Maulana Samiul Haque in Islamabad to avert spread of sectarian violence across the country. The meeting was also attended by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Liaquat Baloch, Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi, Ejazul Haque, Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil, Lt Gen (R) Hamid Gul, Mian Muhammad Aslam, Abdullah Gul and Sardar Attique Ahmad. The meeting concluded that Rawalpindi tragedy was a plot against Pakistan, and appreciated the patience demonstrated by students of the targeted seminary in Rawalpindi. DPC Chairman Maulana Samiul Haque lauded the role of Ulema for successfully averting the spread of violence. He also demanded that hate-material of different religious institutions should be banned.
Besides recommending to the Parliament to pass legislation so as to control sectarian violence, DPC also gave a peace call to protest against the Rawalpindi incident. Its Chairman Maulana Samiul Haque appealed to the potential protestors to remain peaceful on the Friday in the aftermath of the Rawalpindi episode. This was a right step forward to create conducive atmosphere for all schools of thought to mull over contemplating the need for introspective analysis and maintaining respect for other sects.
Peaceful march on the related-Friday by the DPC proved that remaining peaceful and demonstrating tolerance and patience towards each other’s sect is much superior option than to react in retaliation. This also sent a message to foreign forces which have been funding sectarian groups to fight their proxy wars inside Pakistan.
It also showed that those elements which are trying to destabilize Pakistan would also be suitably scolded with a pledge that all Pakistanis are united and have the resolve to maintain sectarian harmony—sectarianism poses a security threat to Pakistan and we can fight it by keeping cohesiveness in our ranks and files.
While, it was also prudent for the organizers of that Friday peace protest including law-enforcing agencies and the administration which ensured that peaceful march by the demonstrators was not disturbed by violent elements and criminals. And all possible measures were taken to make the march a peaceful, violence-free and dignified protest.
It is mentionable that 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.
In this respect, 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.”
Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the Rawalpindi tragedy, the atmosphere presents an edgy picture, as tension still brews among sects of different religious seminaries (Madrassas)—heads of some Madrassas and sects which have also conducted demonstrations and rallies.
As part of solution to counter the sectarian violence in Pakistan, DPC initiative of peace must be supported by media, civil society, key communicators and religious scholars who 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. It will help creating an atmosphere conducive for all schools of thought to contemplate the need to remain peaceful and develop respect for others having different practices and view points.
Supporting the DPA demands, these internal entities including political parties should urge the Parliament to pass anti-sectarian laws, while the government must also focus on creating sectarian harmony in the country and political elements must not be allowed to muddle negatively in religious matters.(By Sajjad Shaukat)