Tradition of Sectarian Violence in Pakistan Continues: Sign of no End


-Ajoy Roy 

The infighting between Sunni terrorists Vs Shia ultras in Pakistan shows no sign of ending. Though the ratio of Sunni-Shia attacks on each other is not one to one, Shias are not as weak as Christians and Quadiyanis in Pakistan or as weak as Hindus-Christians-Ahmediyas in Bangladesh. Shias are quite determined to fight back in Pakistan, though they may not be numerically as strong as Sunnis. Shias constitute about 20 % of the population of Pakistan.   

Ban imposed on religious processions on the streets and any assembly in mosques other than namaz by the central and local governments has not improved the tense situation of terror stricken Pakistan. And there is no sign of easing the tense situation. Communalism, Fundamentalism, Terrorism, Fanaticism, and Obscurantism – thy name is Pakistan. Thank God, we East Bengalis severed from that ugly Pakistan, though we had to pay a heavy price, and still paying.  

No doubt, apparently General Pervez Musharraf in his own style is trying to constrain to limit the Islamic extremism of Sunnism. But no visible effect is felt yet. The Pakistani society is basically an obscurantist & religiously fanatic society. Liberal modernism has not penetrated into the society. Anglo-Mohammedanism Movement of early nineteenth century of Sir Sayed Ahmed is a total failure- it did not succeed to usher a new liberal minded Muslim middleclass bent in freethinking & open intellectualism. Aligarh College, later a University failed to generate a spirit of modernism with broad outlook among the Muslim community, with few exceptions. Instead it produced a sectarian Muslim elite, which gave intellectual support to Jinna’s non-practical Pakistan movement.  

BBC’s Zaffar Abbas (11-10-04) reported that ‘some had hoped that Pakistan’s crackdown on Islamic extremists would herald a period of religious harmony.’ But government’s peace-keeping agencies’ hope had dashed away by the recent happening of consecutive bomb blasts in Shia mosques and assembly of Sunni sympathizers of an unlawful Islamic Terrorist organization.  

Once again on 10th October a Shia mosque at historic city of Lahore was the target of attack of terrorism. A bomb was blasted at the entrance of the Husaina Hall mosque when a suicidal bomber detonated a device as people had gathered for evening prayer. The report says that a man with a brief case tried to force his way into the mosque. When the security guards stopped him, he opened fire and blew himself up. The incident killed two security guards and four others including a boy of 13 years old—six in total. This month alone no less than 70 musullis on both sides of Shias and Sunnis were killed in a series of terrorist attacks on the mosques. BBC informs that ‘a mood of anger inside the Shia mosque, (exists), with Shia Muslims who worship there, refusing to let police enter the premise.‘  

The people of Lahore is rather astonished as Lahore, relatively a peaceful city, has been free of sectarian and communal frenzies so far. Lahorites felt that this is a result of upsurge of old cycle of violence perpetuated by extremists from Sunnis and Shias, two main sects of Islam. No Islamic extremist group or individual has claimed for carrying on the attack so far.  

The government of Punjub as well as central government had put Police and the army on high alert nationwide particularly for Friday congregations. For the last few months here are some major sectarian violence:  

10th October (Lahore): 6 killed in mosque (Shia) attack

7th October (Multan): 40 killed in a Sunni gathering

1st October (Sialkot): 30 killed in a Shia mosque

31st May (Karachi): 20 killed inside a Shia mosque

30th May (Karachi): An elderly Sunni cleric Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai shot dead

14th May (Lahore):  6 members of a Shia family shot dead

7th May (Karach0): 15 devotees killed inside a Shia mosque

The deep root of Shia-Sunni schism lies in History of Islam and its tradition. Zaffar Abbas of BBC has mentioned a few of them in his recent report:  

  • Difference between the majority Sunni and minority Shia Muslims dates back to the earliest days of Islam.
  • They are directly linked to the issues of succession following the death of Prophet Muhammad.
  • The Shia believes that after Prophet Muhammad’s death, his-son-in-law, Ali, should have been given the reigns of administration. They still regard him as the first imam or spiritual leader.
  • The Sunnis, however, believe that the appointment of one of the Prophet’s companions, Abu Bakr, as the first Caliph was correct. The Sunnis also respect Ali as the fourth Caliph of Islam.

Whatever might be the reason of Shia-Sunni conflict in Pakistan lying in history of Islam, the fact is that Pakistan as a modern state is a failure. It has failed to build itself as a state of equal rights for all its citizens irrespective of their sectarian beliefs and religious faiths. Instead it has declared itself an ‘Islamic Republic’ thus banning rights to non-Muslim communities in Pakistan. Sunnis thought that by the term ‘Islamic’ it meant the Sunni variant of Islam, as Pakistan constitution bars to frame any laws which go against the basic principles of Islam and Sunnism. Other Muslims belonging to other tariqas have no place in the republic with rights equal to Sunnis. So history of Pakistan is the history terrorism, communal and sectarian riots, killings, and autocracy under the patronage of militarism. Pakistan military is one of the most fanatic institutions in the world whose tradition our BD army unfortunately inherited, although it claimed that the BD army grew out of our great war of liberation. But it is an irony of fate, it did not inherit the spirit of liberation war- the liberalism, tolerance to all, and secularism, in stead our army draws inspiration from Islamic spirit whatever that means.

The result of schisms between various group of Islamic doctrines, the inter religion hatred and riots had taken many innocent lives in Pakistan since its birth. Only because of Shia-Sunni hatred and conflict since 1980, more than 4,000 people have lost their lives. What answers the followers of Islam would give on the day of judgment (the day of Kiyamot) ?   


A Sunni Imam killed at Karachi  

  A well known Sunni Imam, named Mufti Muhammad Jamil of Karchi city, on his way home, was brutally killed by a group of extremists when they gheraoed Jamil’s car and then opened fire with automatics till their target is finished off. Brutality has no bounds. The incident took place day before yesterday. Earlier in the same city another Imam named Nazir Ahmed was also killed. Nazir belonged to a non-political Islamic group. Terrorism has no creed, it emanates only from fundamentalism of the faith it belongs.     


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